From Publishers Weekly
ointing to contemporary attitudes on divorce, homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, fatherlessness and cohabitation as challenges to the stability of traditional marriage, bestselling author and former secretary of education Bennett (The Book of Virtues; The Death of Outrage) argues that people must take steps to restabilize the institution because "(t)he nuclear family, defined as a monogamous married couple living with their children, is vital to civilization's success." Articulate and impassioned as always, Bennett delivers a forceful defense of his position with selective quotations from studies like Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur's Growing Up with a Single Parent and What's Happening to the American Family? by Sar A. Klevitan et al.; prominent politicians like former senator Patrick Moynihan; and literary sources from the Bible to the pro-lesbian children's book Heather Has Two Mommies. Although Bennett refers in passing to being a child of divorce and offers the teachings of his Catholic faith as a template for marital constancy, he shares no personal anecdotes from his own presumably successful marriage. Nor does he quote interviews with other happily married couples or divorce survivors. As a result, the structure of the book resembles that of a legal brief (Bennett counts a law degree from Harvard among his many academic achievements). However, he does not include citations, as he would in a brief, for some of his more arresting pronouncements, such as, "Cohabiting couples show lower levels of sexual satisfaction than do married couples." In a too-brief discussion of remedies to reverse the trends he sees, Bennett proposes repealing no-fault divorce, reaffirming publicly the centrality of family with churches assuming moral leadership, tightening the payment structure for mothers with dependent children and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. (Sept. 25)Forecast: Bennett's bestselling record and ability to act as a magnet for controversy will no doubt create an early sales spike. Some loyal readers may be disappointed, however, by his evasiveness about his personal experience.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
"The nuclear family is vital to civilization's success," argues the conservative social critic, practicing Catholic, and author of the best sellers The Death of Outrage (1998) and The Book of Virtues (1993). Bennett's new book traces the influence of Judaism, Christianity, and eras marked by large cultural changes (such as the Renaissance and Victorian England) on the development of the Western family. He then identifies and strongly attacks the contemporary social forces that he feels are destroying this institution. Concentrating his criticism on three social trends the wide acceptance of cohabitation, the institution of no-fault divorce, and the increasing acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage the author argues that they cut into the family's moral foundation. He also indicts our society for its tolerance of the high rates of out-of-wedlock births and the low fertility rates of two-parent families and blames the courts for giving "primacy to the values of personal autonomy and individual liberties" instead of family unity. Most of all, he bemoans a shift in values to the view that how one defines a family is "no business of the wider community." Bennett's forceful assault on political correctness relies on his own deeply held beliefs. For public libraries where he has a following. Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.