Fathers & Farewells | Memoir

Well, folks, this is it for me, at least as far as this column in concerned. You’ll still be seeing my reviews elsewhere in LJ, though. I leave you with three books about fathers and fatherhood, which has become my unofficial area of expertise over the past few years, and one by a man who’d decided he didn’t want to be a father. Of particular note here are Mary W. Garber’s Implosion and Neal Thompson’s Kickflip Boys, two excellent and insightful memoirs.

Bouchier, David. An Unexpected Life. Permanent Pr. Mar. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781579625191. $29.95. MEMOIR
This memoir is quite compelling, especially considering that it is more of a just-the-facts account of writer (Not Quite a Stranger: Essays on Life in France; The Accidental Immigrant: America Observed) and radio host (WSHU Public Radio) Bouchier’s life, rather than an exploration of one aspect of it. In a Zen-like fashion, the author approaches life with great openness, allowing opportunities to come to him and seizing them when they do. How else do you explain how someone goes from high school dropout to college professor, radio host, and writing teacher; from Britain to America, with many interludes in Europe, specifically France? VERDICT Bouchier is a warm and welcome guide; his life is filled with enough variety to interest just about anyone.

Erskine, Chris. Daditude: The Joys and Absurdities of Modern Fatherhood. Prospect Park. Apr. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781945551307. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781945551314. MEMOIR
This book is probably best read in short doses instead of in one sitting, as it is mostly a collection of Los Angeles Times editor and writer Erskine’s newspaper columns. Written in a tradition reminiscent of author and columnist Dave Barry, these pieces focus on the trials, tribulations, and joys of white upper-middle-class life, from a man’s point of view—dogs, kids, home repairs, a wife’s big purse, visiting the kids at college, and so on. Erskine (Man of the House; Surviving Suburbia) is folksy but charming in his own way, and the columns are very well written, concise, and to the point. VERDICT Perfect for anyone who enjoys stories of fatherhood.

Garber, Elizabeth W. Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter. She Writes. Jun. 2018. 256p. photos. ISBN 9781631523519. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631523526. MEMOIR
Poet (True Affections: Poems from a Small Town; Listening Inside the Dance) and acupuncturist Garber’s extraordinary debut memoir tells the story of her abusive father, architect Woodie Garber. Life in the Garber home, which was designed by Woodie, revolved solely around the father and his needs and interests. Among other perversities, Woodie photographed his children naked in order to chart their progress from childhood through puberty, and insisted that no bedroom or bathroom door ever be closed. Mostly his abuse was psychological, though with his only daughter it took on a more physical and sexual nature. While growing up, the author was devoted to her father, and here slowly and steadily charts his and her family’s descent into chaos and madness, as Woodie’s commissions dry up and he ceases to receive the recognition he believes he deserves. VERDICT A brilliant dissection of how one family fell victim to abuse by one of its own. Recommended for survivors of abuse and those interested in knowing more about the ways in which great professional success often comes at the sacrifice of one’s own family and private life.

starred review starThompson, Neal. Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood. Ecco: HarperCollins. May 2018. 320p. photos. ISBN 9780062394347. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062394354. MEMOIR
Author Thompson (A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley; Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR) pens an excellent memoir about the growing pains of fatherhood and adolescence. Encouraged from an early age to learn to skateboard and to find their own way through life, the author’s two sons enter their teenage years with a rebellious fury, smoking pot, drinking, staying out to all hours, and barely giving school a passing thought. Thompson does not take all of this very well, even though he behaved no differently in his youth. He is beset by worry about his kids and given to frequent and unintentionally humorous rants. But upon reflection, he comes to realize that in spite of it all his sons are good people with core values and a real sense of direction and purpose. VERDICT Thompson’s remarkably honest account of fatherhood presents a scary, funny, and reflective read all at once.

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Derek Sanderson About Derek Sanderson

Derek Sanderson is currently Assistant Librarian for Instruction Services at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY. When not reviewing books or at the library he enjoys spending time with his son, reading, listening to the Grateful Dead, making mix tapes, and watching whichever sports are in season.

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