Thursday, November 29, 2018

Raising the Dad

Title:  Raising the Dad
Author:  Tom Matthews
Publication Information:  Thomas Dunne Books. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1250094763 / 978-1250094766

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "They came blinking into their new fluorescent-lit freedom with hollow, dusty stares."

Favorite Quote:  "Robin and John kept an even keel ... enough to make the marriage endure ... the two of them were like comanagers of a successful business:  they understood what their roles were, they came together efficiently when a crisis hit, and they kept their doors open when so many businesses around them failed."

Losing a parent is hard at any age. The process of grief is a long one. In fact, from personal experience, I can say that losing a parent is not something you "get over." It's something you learn to live with. John Husted's father's died years ago. He now deals with age himself, a functional but uninspiring marriage, a rebellious teenage daughter, a musician brother fresh out of jail, and a mother who seems to be facing health issues of her own. John Husted deals, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully. Nevertheless, he deals.

Then, a bombshell upends his life. He discovers that the fate of his father is not what he has believed all these years. Call it a valiant effort, dedication, a conspiracy, or a lie. Call it what you will, but what he believes to be true about his father is not true and has never been true. John Husted is called upon to deal with it again.

Although I did not realize it as first, the title of the book is clearly a play on words. Raising the dad vs. raising the dead. See where this is going. A far fetched premise for a mind boggling question. An odd premise for an odd book.

Let's suspend the disbelief about the premise of the book and just talk about the book itself. The book descriptions and so many of the book clips refer to this book as humorous. Unfortunately, the humor of it escapes me completely. To me, this book is dark and sad. It highlights the dysfunctional family. It highlights the struggles of the sandwich generation - the ones caring both for aging parents and children at home. It highlights a man in the middle of his life wondering what he's doing. It highlights a family's reflection on its history of both love and grievances. It puts all these challenges into the middle of a depressing and sad situation.

The book touches upon but does not delve into the moral questions surrounding the premise of the story. For purposes of this story and for purposes of John Husted's life, the situation is what it is. He is called upon to deal with it. He cannot change it; therefore, this family story focuses on the practical realities of dealing with it not the ethical dilemma that surrounds it. As such, the premise of the book is darker and much more serious than the cover, the description, or the story actually are. It leaves a bit of a disconnect.

For me, the story falls short because the premise is just too far-fetched to be believable. Also, once the shock value of the secret passes, the book drags somewhat. It is more about reflections on the past than events in the present. The ending is to me a forgone conclusion; it's just a matter of getting there.  The saving grace is that family love and caring does find its way through the dysfunction in this family, but the darkness and sadness that looms over this family is the lingering memory from this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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