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A Father's Story Paperback – June, 1995

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coming to terms with the horrors of his son's killings, the father of mass-murderer Jeffrey Dahmer reveals the dark and twisted life that preceded his son's slaughter of several victims.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Although he knew his son Jeffrey was disturbed, the author, like most parents, hoped he was "just a blink away from redemption." Thus, he was as horrified as others when Jeffrey's gruesome serial murders of young men came to light. (See Anne E. Schwartz's The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough , LJ 4/15/92). In this brief, honest book, Dahmer, a research chemist, searches for answers to the question of how his son became a monster. In retrospect, there are some clues--Dahmer even speculates that he is "a man whose son was perhaps only the deeper, darker shadow of himself." While no one, not even his father, can ever really know what produces a Jeffrey Dahmer, this is brave, heart-wrenching testimony. The author's unique point of view reminds us that the lives a murderer ruins include those who loved him most. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/93.
- Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books (Mm) (June 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380725037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380725038
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book no doubt disappointed the tabloid readers who expected prurient revelations of sex and violence. It is a very serious and overwhelmingly sad book about a good man who fathered a monstrous criminal and about his efforts to understand how that came to happen. It is one of the most disturbing and important books I have read about the experience of fatherhood, and the moral and psychological issues that it raises are difficult and vastly important. It is an unsensational and unsentimental but tragically moving book written with modesty and intelligence, and it does not deserve the kind of readership that it got.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Lux on June 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lionel Dahmer's memoir is the story of the dark journey of a father who was faced with the grisly reality of one of America's most notorious serial murder, mutilation, rape, necrophilia, and cannibalism cases. Lionel was a father who had to grapple not with losing his son to these unspeakable horrors, but with the fact that his son was the perpetrator. As a father, Lionel was asked if he could forgive his son, but before he could determine that, he had to forgive himself. The book presents Lionel's struggle with guilt, bewilderment, anger, and personal chaos during his son's life and in the aftermath of his arrest.

The memoir stands alone in its straightforward prose, introspection, and complete lack of blame shifting. Lionel provides broads stroke of details of the crimes, focusing more on the individuals than on the headline-grabbing depravity of Jeffrey Dahmer's deviance. Throughout Jeffrey's youth, and during the trial, Lionel grappled with his own responsibility for his son's social maladjustment. He identified with his son's need for control, extreme fear of abandonment, and general solitary nature. Lionel even contrasts Jeffrey's zombie experiments with his own hypnosis-control experiments in childhood. After Jeffrey's arrest, Lionel never wanted him to go free, but he did hope and work for psychiatric treatment for the son he was never able to save.

Lionel, I applaud you condor and introspection. You've written a book that will no doubt provide comfort to many parents of difficult children, and will help frame many of the "why?" questions felt by Americans with regards to your son's crimes.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Schultz VINE VOICE on January 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most accounts of the lives of serial killers just skim the surface. They itemize the atrocities committed, and, if they have ambitions of providing psychological insight, they recount the beatings and the poverty the perpetrator suffered as a youth. However this account does neither. It couldn't if it wanted to. That's because Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the few murderers who has no childhood history of abuse to explain his actions. So in this book, his father is forced to go deeper to try to find the roots of his son's aberrations.

The result is an anguished examination of the private festering that might have given rise to Jeffrey Dahmer's crimes. In the process of looking for early signs, early inklings, Lionel Dahmer traces many of the tendrils of the mad imaginings that he eventually found had ruled his son's life - back to himself. He says that in some ways, he believes his own obsessions might have been the shadowy precursors of his son's full-blown madness. Lionel Dahmer recounts how he was obsessed with fire, with bombs, with exercising mesmerizing control over others when he was a child.

He also discusses the medical conditions his wife suffered from around the time of her difficult pregnancy with Jeffrey. While he does consider that some twisted genetic inheritance might have dictated Jeffrey's behavior, he is still left with a benumbing sense of blame and shame.

There is a generally spare, somber, weighted tone to the writing in this book, although there are some very literate, almost poetic passages, as for example when Lionel admits that he buried himself so much in his work in the chemical analysis laboratory, that he saw Jeffrey only "in glimpses... felt him in snatches.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Deyes on February 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A Father's Story by Lionel Dahmer is a harrowing account of a father trying to come to terms with the murderous crimes of his son. It is a story that brings us to the limits of belief in its descriptions of how a little boy became one of the nation's worst criminals. It is a true story that makes us ever cautious of our own children as they grow up in the modern world with all the influences that can lead children astray. But more than anything, A Father's Story is a warning to all of us that we need to be ever present for our sons and to provide direction and purpose for their lives. Lionel Dahmer is that father and Jeff Dahmer was that son.

From the beginning of Jeff's life we see a traumatic series of events that may have played an important role in molding the violent man that Jeff would later become. His mother, for example, struggled with severe health problems during the pregnancy- nervous seizures and extreme sensitivity to noise- sometimes taking as many as twenty six pills a day to relieve her symptoms. Moreover, the first years of Jeff's life seemed anything but stable. Jeff's family changed homes several times while Lionel worked hard at finishing his PhD. On top of his mother's continuing illness, this time was plagued by arguments between both parents. Indeed stress had reached a peak with Jeff's mother Joyce feeling condemned to spending all her days at home while Lionel spent all his days and sometimes much of the night working in the laboratory. By his own admission, the laboratory had become Lionel's obsession- his focus in life that would cause him to rush home for supper and back to the laboratory with barely a glimpse of Jeff as he played in the yard.
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