The memoirs this month feature a slew of narratives about all sorts of dads and daddy issues: one father lives as a hermit in rural Idaho, another removes dead bodies for a living, and another suffers from dementia, often confused by his whereabouts. But there is one message that rings true throughout: life is short. So, love your body, appreciate the summers your family spent on that miniature golf course, and give your dad a call.
Carpenter, Novella. Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild. Penguin Pr. Jun. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781594204432. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698163782. memoir
Author and urban homesteader Carpenter (Farm City) and her partner, Billy, are thinking about becoming parents, sparking her desire to get to know her father, George Carpenter—a man who has been absent for most of her life. Without much warning for fear that he will flee, Carpenter travels to Idaho with Billy, to visit him and make sense of his hermit lifestyle. What follows is George’s story, beginning with him meeting and falling in love with the author’s mother to their purchase of 180 acres together in Idaho to the dissolution of their partnership when her mother grows tired of homesteading with two young girls in relative isolation. Carpenter tries to make sense of her past in order to avoid the mistakes of her father and enter into parenthood with a clear head. VERDICT This memoir is, at its heart, a biography of the Carpenter’s father as she tries to find him both literally and figuratively. Her account is a clear, determined attempt to make sense of his abandonment.
Friedman, Rachelle. The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship. skirt! Globe Pequot. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780762792948; ebk. ISBN 9781493009008. memoir
Friedman’s four closest girlfriends threw her a bachelorette party a few weeks before her wedding. After a fun night of drinking and dancing, they all decided to go for a moonlight swim and one of her friends playfully pushed her into the pool—a few feet away from the deep end. Friedman broke her neck and was paralyzed from the chest down. Soon afterward, the women who were there that night decide to never divulge the name of the friend whom pushed Friedman. Her story follows the events of that fateful evening and those that followed including her rehab, adjustment to life as a quadriplegic, and eventually, her wedding. Her story is one of unbelievable resilience and grace, but where it really shines is in its depiction of female friendship. The author’s friends who were there the night of the accident needed Friedman to help them heal just as much as she needed them. VERDICT Told with incredible candor, this story of friendship and love will resonate with any reader, and will encourage reflection on the things we all take for granted.
Melby, June. My Family and Other Hazards. Holt. Jul. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780805098310. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780805098327. memoir
When Melby was ten, her schoolteacher parents explained to her that from now on, the family would spend every summer running the Tom Thumb Miniature Golf Course in Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan. So, each summer was spent working at the ticket booth, fiddling with the sno-cone machine, and designing hazards for each hole, which sometimes involved soup cans, television antennae, or a car horn. Now an adult living in Hollywood, Melby receives word that her parents are finally selling the course so she returns home for one last visit. VERDICT A neat departure to a simpler era in American history, this memoir will induce nostalgia in anyone from the Midwest, particularly those who putt-putted their way around a miniature golf course on summer vacations.
Meredith, Andrew. The Removers. Scribner. Jul. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781476761213. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781476761244. memoir
When Meredith was 14, his father was fired from the Philadelphia college where he worked as a professor owing to allegations of sexual misconduct, an incident that permanently bruised his parents’ marriage and soiled the author’s vision of the family patriarch. Now his father is a “remover,” the unseen reaper who transports bodies of those who die at home to nearby funeral parlors. Living with his parents again after dropping out of school and in need of extra money, Meredith joins his father on one of these “removals.” It is through this modest work that he learns what happens to bodies after they die and describes it in poetic yet sometimes gruesome detail. VERDICT Readers will draw comparisons to Mary Roach’s Stiff but this memoir is much more alive than the bodies it describes—rich in language and delicate in its portrayal of a son who suddenly sees his father as imperfect yet irredeemably human.
Parker, Monica. Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide To Being Fat in a Society That Loves Thin. Health Communications. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780757317743. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780757317996. memoir
Actor/writer/producer Parker has tried every weight-loss trick in the book: drinkable strawberry Jell-O shakes promising to “melt the weight off,” hCG supplements fabricated from the urine of pregnant women, and even a personal trainer she describes as a “she-bitch from hell.” But as Parker loses and gains, loses and gains, some things in her life stay heavy: her struggle to connect with her father as he succumbs to dementia, her rocky relationship with her mother, and her determination to find happiness as a big girl in a society that loves thin. VERDICT Even though its subtitle indicates it’s a “survival guide to being fat,” this memoir is really a charming account of growing up and eventually coming into one’s own as a fat woman. A sheer delight for readers.