Sunday, June 12, 2011

Four Father's Day Fiction Ideas That Won't Make Your Dad Think You Hate Him

If you buy your father a novel with a father as a major character, 9 times out of 10 you are going to freak him out. Distant, abusive, absent, disapproving or dead: your typical fictional dad is about as warm and supportive as a pair of boxer shorts stored in the freezer.

Still, if you want to give your pops some fiction for Father's Day, here are few ideas that won't make him wonder what exactly you are in therapy for:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The first non-biological gift your parents give you is your name. In Gogal Gungali's case, this gift is a source of befuddlement and familial friction. The Namesake is the story of Gogol's coming to terms with his identity as the son of first generation Indian immigrants. As he comes to understand himself and the story of his naming, his father's abiding love becomes the defining element of his life.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
For all of The Road's bleakness and terror, it is at its core a story of Man and Boy. The father's anxiety. The boy's innocent. The father's protectiveness. The boy's curiosity. Even among a charred American wasteland, the central tensions of fatherhood remain. Warning: the final pages are liable to bring even the burliest paternal units to their knees.

Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson
Both books, companion novels telling different sides of related stories, struggle with what it means to be a father. In Gilead, the aging Reverend Ames is writing a long letter to his young son, whom he knows he won't live to see grow up. In the process of trying to relay some of his experience and wisdom, he thinks of his own father and grandfather and their stormy lives. Ames' reflection leads him to not only give his son advice, but also to tell him of his own frailty. As sad as Ames' fate might be, his generous spirit and unflinching honesty leave his son a singular patronage.

If Gilead gives an image of an ideal, if unrealized, father, Home wrestles with the reality of trying to understand a son who does not know how to be one. Robert Boughton, Ames' best friend and neighbor, is also nearing the end of his life, and his son has come back to see him one last time. Has he come back for forgiveness or for a reckoning? Can the elder Boughton make peace? Does he even want to? Home is fascinating study in what it means to be the son your father didn't want, even as he adores you.

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  1. This is a great list & as a father I'd be happy to get any of them, but am really loving the idea of a character called Gogol, so namesake stands out, oh & The Road is on my TBR after enjoying his The Sunset Ltd.All I got to do now is slyly get my daughter to see this.

  2. Nice list and I think my dad would really like some of these, especially The Road. I wish there were some father & daughter options.

  3. I loved both, The Namesake and The Road. Couldn't finish Gilead though, and didn't even attempt Home. The Road though - wow! One of my favourite books ever.

  4. My favourite father-in-literature is David Gilmour's representation of himself in The FIlm Club. It's a great father's day gift, too, as the father is conflicted and troubled but loving and desperately trying to do his best