Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Father's House: In Search of a Lost Past by Matthew Carr

Let me start this review by saying that I have not finished the book yet. Story Cartel wanted me to post my review by May 1, so I'm going to share my impressions so far. When I finish, I will post another review. Having a newborn and a 5 year old and a full time job doesn't leave a lot of time to read! Even though I have not finished, I do have a lot to say about the book.

  Available at: Amazon

So far a few things have impressed me about this book:

The Setting 
I love reading about new places. So when I read that this was set in Guyana, I was ready to pick it up. Being a Spanish teacher, I have studied and read quite a bit about South America. However, Guyana was never included in that. This book is helping to fill in that knowledge gap. Carr does a good job of giving a history of Guyana without overwhelming the reader with details and background that derails the story. I am looking forward to learning more about this small and complicated country as I finish reading.

His Courage
I think it takes great courage to embrace the fact that parents are actual people. It is so easy to feel like the entirety of your parent's world is wrapped up in you. Carr courageously faces the fact that other people knew his dad differently than he did. That may not seem like a big deal, but the disparity between who he knew his dad to be, an abusive alcoholic who became an absent father, and who others knew him to be, a fascinating professor and political advocate, is a wide gulf that many would not have courage to cross. As he is hearing this disparate accounts, he takes them in and genuinely considers how these stories have an affect on who his father was. He does not shy away from any stories and he is very honest about the struggle he has to make all these facts fit into one human.

The Search
As you would imagine attempting to reconstruct the life and psyche of a person after they are gone is not easy. It involves lots of discussions with many different people. Carr does not get bogged down in details about the people he is interviewing, but he does not completely ignore their personal interest in his father either. He balances who the person is with what their information is. So we are introduced to a vast number of people with very different stories without becoming confused about what is going on.

One minor note of caution
This book is not one that can be read with distractions. The information and writing style is such that it takes focus to understand and enjoy the material. For me personally, I love that aspect of it. However, it does mean that my reading time is cut down. I have to make sure that everyone else is in bed or that I am by myself to find the time to read it. So don't expect to pick it up and start reading it in the middle of your busy day.