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Ben Tanzer, My Father's House


As I've mentioned many times here, Ben Tanzer is a great friend of mine, and I make no claim to objectivity when passing along my thoughts on his books. Besides, I am in no way a critic, and my thoughts on books - not just Ben's - are instead those of a fan of literature. Although all of Ben's fiction draws significantly from his own life experiences, his latest effort My Father's House is probably his most personal work yet. In fact, by his own admission, the book began as a memoir which he couldn't quite make work, but which finally came alive after he fictionalized the narrative.

My Father's House tells the story of an unnamed narrator, a social worker in Chicago, and his conflicted response to the recently diagnosed, advanced-stage cancer of his father, who lives on the East Coast. The narrator precariously balances his life in Chicago - marriage, friendships, career - while regularly flying east to either be with his parents at home or accompany his father for his treatments at various hospitals. When home, he is invariably drawn back into things from his younger life - the local dive bar, old female acquaintances - which would be better left alone but yet he can't resist; he is already so lost in the face of his father's illness and looming death, that getting lost even further doesn't concern him. But even though he is regularly with his father during this difficult time, he is still unable to fully connect with him, and get answers to questions he has always had about his father's life. Meanwhile, when back in Chicago, he struggles with the fact that he can continue to lead his ordinary, everyday life while his father is dying a thousand miles away, and even feeling guilt over it - while never quite realizing that leading that ordinary, everyday life is probably exactly what his father would want for him.

In short, punchy chapters Tanzer movingly explores the bewildered, anxious and impulsive thoughts and actions of a young man still trying to figure out his place in the world while also facing the grim prospect that his father will soon no longer be part of that world. The father's fate is a foregone conclusion, but even amidst that great loss the narrator finally begins to make sense of it all, and finds a way to move forward. Which is something that any of us in that situation would wish for ourselves.

April 13, 2012 in Books | Permalink


Hmmm. Not yet available at my local indie bookstore. I'll keep trying.

Posted by: Paul at Apr 14, 2012 6:58:28 PM

Ask for it by name! Or buy it directly from the publisher, whatever.

Posted by: Pete at Apr 17, 2012 3:44:18 PM