Wednesday 17 June 2015

BLOG TOUR: Every Father's Daughter edited by Margaret McMullan

Published by McPherson & Company

What comes to mind when you think about the word father? What does it mean to you personally? In Every Father's Daughter, Margaret McMullan has brought together twenty four incredibly gifted writers to share their deeply personal essays on this very subject.

Where to start on this book? I try not to go into reading experiences with any expectations but I couldn't help it. When this title landed on my desk, I was a little hesitant because I haven't had, until recently, a stable father figure in my life. I had thought, albeit briefly, that this book would be celebrating all that was wonderful about father/daughter dynamics, and mostly by focusing on healthy and 'normal' relationships if such creatures exist.

As soon as I read the introductions, I knew I was in for something completely different and before we had even reached the first essay, I was firmly hooked. The fathers in this book are not the perfect figures that we dream about, but very real, very human, very fallible. The relationships detailed are not perfect, and while there is happiness and joy within these pages, there can also be found sadness, longing, regret, and often a curiosity that is never quite satisfied.  It's not a book to be rushed through, but rather to be savoured, and considered.

Even though the experiences were far different from my own, I found myself able to connect with much of the content, and empathize with the writers as I bore witness to their heartfelt testaments that almost always felt as though they were each discovering something new about themselves and their father. If I had one question to ask the writers, it would be about that. Whether the essays were as cathartic as I feel they would have been. At times reading the words upon the page caused a mild discomfort as though I, the reader, was peeking into the personal and secret diary of another. I don't intend for that to sound as negative as it may come across, rather it just gave me pause, and I appreciated the courage that it took to lay it all out on the pages.

This book runs through such a diverse set of experiences, and as you would expect from such a scenario, it also leads the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It's beautiful and tragic, raw and gritty, uplifting and devastating all at once, and while the elegant design may lead you to believe that it is a book written by women, for women, don't let that deceive you. This is a book that every father and father-to-be should have on their shelf.

I have to comment too on the interior layout. Some pages separate the content and have a muted grey design which I found added to the luxurious style that I so enjoy in this collection. At first I had taken it as looking very feminine but the more I read, the more I noticed it, the more it brought to mind the paisley design that I have always enjoyed and found so masculine and easy on the eyes.  It may seem irrelevant, and perhaps the bibliophile in me pays far too much attention to detail, but it really did add something to the experience for me, and again, reinforced that this book is not for women only.

All in all, I loved this book. Was it hard to read? At times, I found it mildly triggering having come from an abusive background but that discomfort was brief, and ultimately so very worthwhile. Margaret McMullan speaks of more essays that didn't make it into the book and I'd be happy to see another volume released.  What I'd love to see too, is a volume focused on the same relationship, but written by fathers.

The takeaway? Great book. Not a fluffy read. A great gift for the upcoming Fathers Day weekend.

Update: 18/06/2015

I think this is a first for me. That I've gone back to a review to add content, because a book has lingered with me, almost hauntingly.  This morning I find myself thinking back over the essays, over the people within the pages, and most especially, the family connection and deep history that explains, or tries to at least, the characteristics of the loved ones featured. I find myself enamoured most especially by Alice Munro's contribution Working for a living which really captured the essence of family, and teamwork, and so much more. Also Joyce Maynard's My Father's Bible which didn't so much tug at the heartstrings, as masterfully and gently with perfect precision, play them much like a master musician and their most cherished instrument. Yesterday it was an essay to me. Today it feels like so much more.  I know this book is going to be remaining on my shelf for many years to come, close by where I can take it down from time to time, and savour the experience again. One essay at a time.  I've definitely fallen for this book.

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