Select one of the keywords
Editorial June 2003
In Search of Dads
By Hilary Williamson

According to Brian Herbert, Joseph Campbell once said that 'the search for one's father is a major hero quest'. The result of Brian Herbert's own quest is a biography of his father, famed SF writer Frank Herbert - Dreamer of Dune. I enjoyed this book, for its insights into the man and his works, but also for its depiction of a brilliant but very difficult father and of the development of a father/son relationship as Frank began to 'talk story' to Brian who has also succeeded as a writer.

Another father/son relationship is developed in Ronald Anthony's fictional The Forever Year. This tells of a year in the life of an aging father and the son of his later years, who felt that he missed something in childhood. When Mickey Sienna can no longer live alone, his son Jesse grabs the opportunity and takes on his dad as a cantankerous room-mate. But then Mickey tells stories that transform the old man from an 'eighty-three-year-old grumbler, to a lovestruck young man with dreams in his eyes' and teach his son an important lesson about love.

Then there's Robert Inman's Captain Saturday about a middle-aged man whose job as the local Weather Wizard defines his life, and leaves his wife and son out in the cold. A series of disasters send this dad's life spiraling ever downwards and onto his own quest to resolve unfinished childhood business. Along the way to rock bottom, Will grows up, transforms himself and learns what it takes to be a father.

Father/daughter relationships make equally fine fodder for fiction. Ellen Gilchrist's I, Rhoda Manning Go Hunting with My Daddy shows us a dictatorial Republican patriarch and the 'hardheaded' daughter who shares her recollections of him and muses on how long it took her to understand that they were so alike. The author tells us that it's both a gift and a curse to have a strong father, 'a curse because you cannot reproduce it in the adult world. No man can be that wonderful ever again because only a child's mind can really comprehend wonder.'

One of my favorites, Letty Pogrebin's Three Daughters, shows us the very different, but remarkably strong, daughters (half-sisters) of a famous rabbi - Shoshonna, Rachel and the 'diva of disaster' Leah. Their relationships with each other and with their father have been damaged by an old secret. Hard-earned wisdom, and an eventual revelation of what really happened, brings them together again in mid-life, 'A time to tear and a time to mend.'

And, to close on another memoir, here's a particularly poignant, sometimes humorous, compilation of a father's love letters, put together by the daughter who only got to know her dad after she came across a cache of his wartime letters to her mother. Jack Sweeney died in a plane crash before his daughter was born. Emma shares with the reader Jack Sweeney's letters to the love of his life in the delightful As Always, Jack.

These literary perspectives share heartwarming insights into the father/child relationship, that are helpful as we all pursue our own hero quests in search of dads. And in conclusion, to my own dad on Father's Day... Thank you for never failing kindness, for a consistently tolerant and compassionate example, for being there in anxious and in happy times, for sharing a love of reading, for being you. Thank you for everything.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.