Sterba, James P. 1943-
STERBA, James P. 1943-
Born May 1, 1943, in Detroit, MI; married Frances FitzGerald (an author), 1989. Education: Michigan State University, B.A. (journalism).
Evening Star, Washington, DC, reporter, c. mid-1960s; New York Times, columnist and associate editor in Washington, DC, bureau, 1967-68, metropolitan staff reporter in New York, NY, 1968-69, foreign correspondent, 1969-73, national reporter, 1973-78, economic development reporter in New York, NY, 1978, reporter in Asia and bureau chief in Hong Kong, China, 1979-82, reporter for Science Times section, 1982; Wall Street Journal, Washington, DC, editor and foreign reporter, 1982-84, assistant foreign editor, 1984-86, senior special writer, beginning 1986.
Distinguished Alumni Award, Michigan State University, 1970; Considine Award co-winner, Overseas Press Club, 1988, for a series of reports on the rise of Islam.
Frankie's Place: A Love Story (memoir), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Writing under the name Jim Sterba, James P. Sterba is a veteran international journalist who gained particular acclaim for his reports on important events in Asia, ranging from the Vietnam War to Tiananmen Square massacre. Although his first book at times reflects back on these war stories, its central theme is the burgeoning love between Sterba and his wife, Frances "Frankie" FitzGerald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fire in the Lake, which happens to be about Vietnam. Frankie's Place: A Love Story is also about Sterba's love for a place: Frankie's vacation home on Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Originally planned as a book about local Maine recipes, Frankie's Place evolved into a memoir of one summer that Sterba spends with the woman with whom he falls in love.
Despite their many differences—FitzGerald is an intellectual from a wealthy Manhattan background, while Sterba's life is rooted in a poor, rural Michigan farm—the two find they have much in common. Frankie's Place reveals Sterba's awakening to the fact that his Desert Island host is his soul mate. "It turns out," as Anthony Day explained in his Los Angeles Times review, "that for all the security of her position, FitzGerald, no less than Sterba, longed for a home.…How the two, each burdened by loneliness and the self-absorbed demands of the writer's trade, became friends, then lovers, then husband and wife, is the reason for the book."
The memoir takes a long, meandering route down this path, including detailed descriptions of mushroom and berry picking, hiking, boating, swimming, parties, cooking, amusing encounters with the local residents, and even the author's reunion with his long-lost father, which all serve to provide readers with a sense of why the author has come to love both the place and the woman. A slow-paced, leisurely read, Frankie's Place "is a beautiful memoir," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, who noted that "Sterba's journalistic edge keeps the prose far from mushy." Carolyn See similarly warned readers in her Washington Post review not "to dismiss the book itself as sappy." Both Sterba and FitzGerald are too world-wise and world-weary for that, and Sterba's reflections and ruminations led See to conclude that Frankie's Place "could be a complex rebuttal to the theological concept of this Earth as a vale of tears."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Frankie's Place: A Love Story, p. 1633.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Frankie's Place, p. 667.
Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Terren Llana Wein, review of Frankie's Place, p. 134.
Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2003, Anthony Day, "Rock-ribbed Maine Yankees, from an Outsider's Viewpoint."
New York Times, July 13, 2003, July 13, 2003, Anthony Bailey, "Never Eat Lobsters out of Context."
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Frankie's Place, p. 54.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2003, Whitney Pastorek, review of Frankie's Place.
Washington Post, July 18, 2003, Carolyn See, "On the Maine Coast, Tides of Contentment," p. C4.
Jim Sterba Web site,http://www.jimsterba.com (April 9, 2004).*