About the Book:
“Excuse me lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry.”
When I heard him, I didn’t really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise—the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasn’t there.
But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped.
And then—and I’m still not sure why I did this—I came back.
When Laura Schroff first met Maurice on a New York City street corner, she had no idea that she was standing on the brink of an incredible and unlikely friendship that would inevitably change both their lives. As one lunch at McDonald’s with Maurice turns into two, then into a weekly occurrence that is fast growing into an inexplicable connection, Laura learns heart-wrenching details about Maurice’s horrific childhood.
Sprinkled throughout the book is also Laura’s own story of her turbulent childhood. Every now and then, something about Maurice's struggles reminds her of her past, how her father’s alcohol-induced rages shaped the person she became and, in a way, led her to Maurice.
As their friendship grows, Laura offers Maurice simple experiences he comes to treasure: learning how to set a table, trimming a Christmas tree, visiting her nieces and nephew on Long Island, and even having homemade lunches to bring to school.
It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned thirty years, that brought life to an over-scheduled professional who had lost sight of family and happiness and hope to a hungry and desperate boy whose family background in drugs and crime and squalor seemed an inescapable fate.
I enjoyed this heartwarming memoir, the story of a New York career woman who, one day, actually stopped to talk to a child who was begging and found him to be a wonderful human being. I liked the fact that she didn't play lady bountiful and didn't see herself as his savior. As a matter of fact, she'll tell you that she got as much from the relationship as he did. The book provides a look at life in grinding poverty, a life where children see having a gun held to their head as a normal part of a business transaction, a life where drugs are rampant and no one holds a real job. It also shows us that life in middle-income families isn't always as rosy as it appears.
Often, I'll say that memoirs are self-absorbed. Some of this one is, a little, probably like Laura Schroff's life was before Maurice became a part of it; but he takes enough of the focus off of her in this book that the "me" factor is dilute enough. Maurice and Laura both needed someone to love them; they both found that love and both are better people for having each other in their lives.
I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy. Even though I'm not obligated to provide a positive review, I'm pleased to give this book a B+.
In October 2011 Parade Magazine published an article about Laura and Maurice.
When Laura turned 50, Maurice toasted her at her party. A video of it is here.