Saturday, February 18, 2017

The poison tree, by Henry I. Schvey

Professor Schvey has been in the Performing Arts Department of Washington University for many years and has led book discussions at our library on occasion.  This coming-of-age memoir reveals that despite his wealthy and privileged background (his father was a major figure at Merrill Lynch), his early life was one of abuse and neglect.  Only after his father’s death does it seem he is able to revisit his youth and perhaps come to terms with the history that still haunts him.  Although his parents’ marriage brought together two important New York Jewish families, his mother and father were otherwise ill-matched.  His father was disciplined and orderly; his mother, particularly after the couple separated when Henry was about twelve, became even more slovenly, alcoholic, and a borderline hoarder.  His childhood, and that of his six-years-younger brother, was filled with screaming and visits from the police for domestic disturbance.  When young Henry failed to live up to his father’s expectations, emotional and physical cruelty swiftly followed.  Despite this, and one suspects by dint of conscious effort, Prof. Schvey has enjoyed a long and happy marriage and raised successful children.  212 pp.

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