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Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman
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Kramer vs. Kramer (1977)

by Avery Corman

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I saw the movie before I read the book and it's one of the more successful literary adaptations I've seen...it might actually be more effective than the source material. Which isn't to say the source material isn't very good in its own right. There's a legal philosophy known as the "tender years doctrine", which basically boils down to the belief that women are presumed to be better parents of very small children. There was a time when it was applied essentially automatically to grant a mother custody of a young child, almost regardless of the circumstances of the situation. This book, and its big-screen adaptation, were a part of helping drive a social shift away from that doctrine, ultimately making a difference in how custody law is determined by the courts.

The story is simple, with a straightforward plot: Ted and Joanna Kramer get married and have a son. Joanna stays home to raise him, but finds herself increasingly unsatisfied by an entirely home-and-child-based existence. Ted is unsympathetic, believing child-rearing to be Joanna's responsibility, particularly while their son is small. So Joanna leaves. Ted is has no choice but to assume full parental duty in her absence. The couple divorces and Joanna signs away her custody rights. After over a year, in which the father and son become extremely close and Ted completely rearranges his life and his thinking to be the father his son deserves, Joanna returns out of the blue, demanding custody. And she gets it, based on the tender years doctrine.

I didn't feel compelled to spoiler alert any of that, because the book and movie have been around so long that the conclusion is no longer a surprise. But also because the power of the book comes not from the outline of the story, but from how it's told. The beginning portions, detailing how Ted and Joanna came to be married, could in large part take place in the present day. They don't end up together because of their undying love, but because they're both bored of the singles scene and the other is good enough. Joanna's frustration at being forced into the primary caregiver role, at the expense of her own desires to be a contributing member of outside society, also feels like it could be written about any number of women today. We watch Ted go from the kind of man who insists that his wife stay home to take care of their son even though she doesn't want to, to the kind of man whose whole world is his son, slowly and organically. It's not forced or rushed or false, which makes the gut punch of Joanna's return that much harder to take. It ends happily enough, with Joanna relinquishing her victory and Ted retaining custody. The novel makes its point without preaching, and is all the more powerful for so doing. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
I was able to identify with both Joanna and Ted Kramer. I remember seeing this movie as a kid, not truly even understanding what divorce was.... Reading it now, 20 years into my own marriage, I can see each person's point of view.... I'm kind of surprised I was rooting for Ted, though I think that was the intention of the author. It was a good read, kept moving along at a nice pace. Anxious to watch the movie again! ( )
  trayceetee | Apr 9, 2018 |
I saw the movie before I read the book and it's one of the more successful literary adaptations I've seen...it might actually be more effective than the source material. Which isn't to say the source material isn't very good in its own right. There's a legal philosophy known as the "tender years doctrine", which basically boils down to the belief that women are presumed to be better parents of very small children. There was a time when it was applied essentially automatically to grant a mother custody of a young child, almost regardless of the circumstances of the situation. This book, and its big-screen adaptation, were a part of helping drive a social shift away from that doctrine, ultimately making a difference in how custody law is determined by the courts.

The story is simple, with a straightforward plot: Ted and Joanna Kramer get married and have a son. Joanna stays home to raise him, but finds herself increasingly unsatisfied by an entirely home-and-child-based existence. Ted is unsympathetic, believing child-rearing to be Joanna's responsibility, particularly while their son is small. So Joanna leaves. Ted is has no choice but to assume full parental duty in her absence. The couple divorces and Joanna signs away her custody rights. After over a year, in which the father and son become extremely close and Ted completely rearranges his life and his thinking to be the father his son deserves, Joanna returns out of the blue, demanding custody. And she gets it, based on the tender years doctrine.

I didn't feel compelled to spoiler alert any of that, because the book and movie have been around so long that the conclusion is no longer a surprise. But also because the power of the book comes not from the outline of the story, but from how it's told. The beginning portions, detailing how Ted and Joanna came to be married, could in large part take place in the present day. They don't end up together because of their undying love, but because they're both bored of the singles scene and the other is good enough. Joanna's frustration at being forced into the primary caregiver role, at the expense of her own desires to be a contributing member of outside society, also feels like it could be written about any number of women today. We watch Ted go from the kind of man who insists that his wife stay home to take care of their son even though she doesn't want to, to the kind of man whose whole world is his son, slowly and organically. It's not forced or rushed or false, which makes the gut punch of Joanna's return that much harder to take. It ends happily enough, with Joanna relinquishing her victory and Ted retaining custody. The novel makes its point without preaching, and is all the more powerful for so doing. ( )
  ghneumann | Feb 2, 2016 |
There was a time during their marriage when Ted and Joanna Kramer were happy. There was a time when they loved each other deeply; and their brown-eyed, inquisitive four-year-old son Billy was the absolute light of their lives. The Kramers once considered themselves the luckiest couple with a perfect family.

Then came the day when Joanna Kramer abandoned her family and filed for divorce. Ted and Billy were left on their own; together, two against the world. Father and son. Caring and cared for, learning what loving and belonging are all about until there is a bond between them that absolutely nothing can break - except maybe a mother who, almost two years later, changes her mind and wants her little boy back...

What follows is a poignant novel about a very special kind of love - about what happens when a father and his son come together and what it means when they may have to part. This is a glowing novel that once read will never be forgotten.

This book was definitely very well-written and I really enjoyed reading it. I thought the story was certainly memorable and I found that the relationship between Ted and Billy was wonderfully portrayed. I would give this book an A+!

I must say that Mareena and I watched the 1979 movie adaptation starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep about four or five years ago; whenever it was last on cable. I've actually seen the movie Kramer Versus Kramer twice, I think, but it was sometime before I read the book. I completely understand why the film won five Academy Awards, it was certainly very well cast. ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Feb 2, 2015 |
Never saw the movie, so my reaction wasn't tainted that way. I liked the book, it kept my interest, but the prose wasn't what I'd call scintillating. It read like a legal brief sometimes, a little dry, a bit expository. Not bad all in all. ( )
  jimnicol | Sep 26, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804103607, Mass Market Paperback)

When Ted Kramer's wife walks out, he is left with all the worldly goods, a high-flying job he knows backwards, and a son whom he knows hardly at all. Over the next few months Ted and Billy become friends for the first time. Then Joanna Kramer reappears, demanding custody of their son.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Avery Corman's powerful classic novel about the end of a marriage and the bond between a father and child. For Joanna and Ted Kramer, building a life in New York City is tough but full of joy thanks to their lovely little boy, Billy. Or so it seems, until one day Joanna walks out, unable to manage the burdens of family life and her own unfulfilled ambitions. Alone with Billy, Ted begins to navigate the challenges of single parenthood and forms a bond with his son that no one can break-except the courts. When Joanna suddenly resurfaces and decides she wants Billy back, Ted must fight for the right to hold on to everything he holds most dear. Adapted as the landmark film starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer is an unforgettable and heartrending story of love and devotion in the wake of divorce. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Avery Corman, including rare images from the author's personal collection.… (more)

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