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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely relevant book
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,...
Published on April 21, 2000

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reflections from father of a psychopath
I found this book to be quite fascinating. How does it feel to be the father of a monster? It's not as if Jeffrey Dahmer turned out as he did because his parents tortured or molested or abused him. His childhood upbringing was not especially different than that of the average person. This leaves his father to torture himself over signs and clues he surely must have...
Published on January 13, 2009 by Roy Pickering

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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely relevant book, April 21, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Father's Story (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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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Candid, introspective, one-of-a-kind, June 27, 2007
This review is from: A Father's Story (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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Allowed To Drift, February 25, 2010
This review is from: A Father's Story (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. With all its comfort and the predictability of its molecular reactions, the lab had literally become a refuge from the unpredictability of family life.

Gradually Jeff Dahmer the boy sank into his own world withdrawing from reality:"drifting toward that unimaginable realm of fantasy and isolation" as his family struggled to deal with its own brokenness. But Jeff clearly yearned for his father. At times he would clutch onto his father with joy sensing the security we all feel when our fathers come to our rescue. But these moments were rare- as he grew into a teenager, Jeff sunk further into his own "quagmire of inactivity" spending much of his time alone in his room or watching television. A different side of Jeff began to develop- a side that was curiously interested in collecting the remains of dead animals. Oblivious to these changes, Lionel could not fathom the depth of isolation that had gripped his own son's life. Indeed in his isolation, Jeff would gradually become an alcoholic turning to the bottle in desperation during his final years at school.

Jeff carried out his first murder at the age of eighteen. His mother had already deserted him, leaving him alone in her house to fall yet deeper into his insanity. Lionel's later attempts to send him to college ended up in disaster. With his absence from class and his ever increasing problem of drinking, Lionel pulled him out of college. With Jeff's unwillingness to work, Lionel finally sent him to the army hoping that the structured and disciplinary life style of the military would change his attitude and outlook. Initially things went very well for Jeff- his father noticed what appeared to be a transformation in attitude and appearance. But this moment of hope for his future came to an end when, three months before his military service was up, he was discharged, again because of his drinking.

Seemingly in desperation, Lionel suggested that Jeff leave their house in Bath, Ohio to live with his grandmother in West Allis Wisconsin. Lionel believed that the affectionate nature of his grandmother and the love that she felt for Jeff would offer the best environment for getting his life in order. Once again this period - which lasted over 6 years- was a time of great hope. Jeff helped out his grandmother with all the tasks and daily chores around the house. And yet free as he was from the safety net that only a father's love could provide, the sinister side of Jeff's character continued to develop unabated. He began to steal, he acquired a gun, he brought strangers back home and he took on a very curious interest in chicken bones which he bought from the store and treated with numerous household chemicals.

After moving out of his grandmother's house Jeff was arrested on charges of child molestation. For this he was sentenced to 5 years of probation with the first year in a work release program. Deep down, Lionel still believed that the innocence of the little boy that he had known in his son could be rescued, that Jeff's problems were all simply connected to his alcoholism and that with the right kind of psychiatric help his son would return to some level of normalcy and decency in his life. Little did Lionel know of the gruesome details of all that would later take place in his son's house and of the murders that his son had committed. Only later on, following his final arrest and the media frenzy that accompanied the trial of his son, would the sordidness and the perversity of his drift from sanity and humanity become apparent. Jeff had murdered through acts of violence that defy belief.

So ended all hope of Jeff Dahmer's rescue. As his trial proceeded Jeff showed little remorse for his acts. His father began to search his own inner self remembering his own childhood fantasies and nightly dreams as if they offered some explanation for what his son had done and what he had become. He remembered his own desire for control and power and his idea that his PhD would give him that power. As Jeff was sentenced to life imprisonment hundreds of letters, some religious in nature and some from people seeking comfort from Jeff for their own personal problems and life struggles, began pouring in. But it was the search for a cause- for some sort of reason, for a simple explanation- that occupied much of Lionel Dahmer's time.

Maybe it had been Jeff's genetic makeup, maybe his alcoholism and drug-taking, maybe the drugs that Lionel's first wife had taken during the difficult pregnancy or maybe even the violence that Jeff had been exposed to through television. But as speaker and author Robert Lewis suggests, perhaps more importantly than all of these might have been the lack of parental direction that could well have prevented Jeff from simply `drifting away' both as a child and as a teenager. Jeff had lacked the guidance a child s desperately needs. He had been left alone to drift. Dahmer's last words provide a stark warning to all of us fathers: "Take care, take care, take care". Ours is a world fraught with danger. Ours is a world in which we must take care of our own- our sons and daughters- to ensure that they become the men and women God wants them to be.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides Real Insights, January 29, 2010
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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." Lionel describes how he played the role of dutiful father and husband, but didn't vitally experience either the joys or loves or sorrows that most people seem to get out of these relationships.

I had criticized a low-budget independent movie that was made based on this book, because the actors in it seemed so emotionless. The actor who played the father especially gave the appearance of sleepwalking through his performance. But this book suggests that that's how life was really lived for much of the time in this household. The father took the son fishing - played soccer with him. There were all the seeming normalcies - from Halloween parties - to a college enrolment. But if Lionel's self-criticisms are accurate, in truth all these Norman Rockwell tableaus took place as the aftermath of "The Invasion of the BodySnatchers." Everyone was actually a walking simulacrum, an emptiness posing as a real person.

Well, that is probably the case in many families, but hardly any children grow up to be cannibalistic serial killers. So the mystery of "Why?" remains. But this account goes farther than almost any other book on serial killers I've read in plumbing to the undertow of trouble that can flow in even the "best" families.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great, November 4, 2002
Gina Menzano (Mt.Laurel, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Father's Story (Hardcover)
I really admire Lional Dahmer to come forth and share his feelings about something that is so unbelievable to understand. He proves to be a brave man and strong condsidering what he and the other families went through....I really admire and respect him for sharing his own thoughts and feelings, a son that he will never understand.....he still was his father, put in an uncomfortable situation no one could ever understand........
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vey sobering and haunting., December 24, 2011
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As is said in the book's foreword, most of us live and function within the landscape of the ordinary; we have good and bad days, successes and failures, give and receive pleasure and pain. Within that normal landscape, the worst news most human beings ever dream of receiving is that their child is dead; even more horrific if the cause of that death is murder.

Most of us never stop to say to ourselves: "I hope I am never informed that my child is a serial killer."

While, across the world, millions of parents have had to face the unspeakable grief of being informed their child is dead/killed, Lionel Dahmer is an extremely rare, one-in-a-billion case: he was informed that his own child, who he brought into the world, had killed other peoples' children. Not one, not two, but seventeen of them.

I remember in the '90's watching watching A&E's Biography of Jeffrey Dahmer (known only to a few people as Jeff Dahmer until his international notoriety) with my mom. I asked her at the end: "If I committed crimes like that, would you stop loving me?" She responded: "I would, yes!" She also said would most likely commit suicide, because the reality would be too monstrous to confront.

Yet others, were they to be in Lionel Dahmer's shoes, would go into hiding; they would change their name and move to another part of the country, or leave the country altogether. (This is in fact the road Jeffrey's younger brother David took. Understandably; he was still a young man in his 20's; why should his life be forever ruined?)

Lionel Dahmer deserves enormous respect for having done none of these things; he kept his name. He did this largely to defend the honor and dignity of the many previous generations of good Dahmers; on Larry King Live he stressed that despite everything, he's proud of the family name. He privately and publicly confronted the monstrous reality that has become the noose around his neck for the remainder of his life, and even continued to love (if not forgive) his son despite his crimes. If one goes to YouTube, one can find the unedited video of NBC's Stone Phillips interviewing Jeff and his father, and at the beginning of this video, as father and son are temporarily reunited within the confines of the Columbia Correctional Facility, they approach each other and Lionel initiates an embrace with Jeff. How many fathers would have the courage to hug their son after knowing that son committed such grisly crimes?

This memoir is as sobering as it is haunting. We see a father who, despite any mistakes he made (all parents make mistakes), tried to do the right thing. Nothing he did seemed to have any effect, he saw his son drift from quiet and shy boy, to an alcoholic lost soul, and finally, the unspeakable truth for which Jeff is known around the world. He reflects upon each event in Jeff's childhood which, at the time seemed innocuous, but in retrospect is viewed with a sinister cloud, particularly Jeff's fascination with the clanking noise of bones being dropped into a metal pale. Lionel reflects upon his own sexual fantasies he felt as a child, fantasies which included violence and killing. Lionel stresses, however, that with him, as with most people who fantasize about sexual acts which would be highly wrong and illegal in actuality, everything stayed completely within his mind; he never once crossed that great divide whereby he intended to make those fantasies real. He searches his mind and soul to ask how Jeff could in fact cross that divide, to go beyond the line that almost all other human beings will not allow themselves to cross.

A tragic, sobering, haunting memoir of a good man who happened to be the father of one of history's most notorious murders.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Weight of Blame, January 11, 2008
TorridlyBoredShopper "T(to the)B(to the)S" ("Daddy Dagon's Daycare" - Proud Sponsor of the Little Tendril Baseball Team, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Father's Story (Hardcover)
On the heels of many a serial murder's crimes, we often find a different type of terrible person. There are often those who try to cash in on the deeds of something infamous, selling their tales to anyone that will listen, and there are those who try to make others forgive them and tell them they aren't to blame.
It is an ugly world when this happens and uglier still when these things first march into view.

When I first saw this book I thought it was the culmination of the two of these things, and I accordingly dismissed it for a time because the idea repulsed me and the few sensibilities I try to stay connected with. The thing that changed my mind on reading the book was an interview done with Lionel and his son a year or so before Jeffrey's death, when Jeffrey was setting with his dad and talking about many of the things that had transpired. Amongst many of the questions J.D. was asked, he was asked to tell his dad what he thought about what his father had written. This seemed to catch both of them off-guard a bit, but Dahmer finally responded by saying that the book captured things that even he had forgotten and that he thought the book was worth reading.
Considering how reviled Dahmer was by what he saw himself as, I wondered what that meant and wanted to look into the topic. And what I found was what the title entailed - it as a father trying to understand how his son had become something that he couldn't come close to comprehending.

Far from the read that True Crime readers might be looking for, this is the story of a father and the son he desperately tried to recall. It accordingly goes into the early aspects of the boy and delves into a few curious aspects that the father remembers, but it really spends a lot of its time trying to see where things "went wrong" instead of focusing on the gruesome details of what had transpired. That isn't to say there aren't references to the events that had transpired because there are, and that isn't to say that there aren't times when it seems like Lionel hopes he is blameless because all fathers would hope they were free of this guilt. The thing is that the point of the book is really to look at the exploration of a father wondering about the horrors his son was capable of and where that came from.
It did this by exploring everything, even looking into the idea of love and wondering how one could possibly ever atone for something so terrible as what his son had done. It also looked at where the father could have gone wrong, and the ideas were - painful.

I'm not going to go as far as some people and commend Lionel Dahmer for writing this book because I'm not sure anyone deserves a commendation for something like this. I will say that the book looked like a struggle, however, and that this struggle looked like one that seems almost unimaginable.
I would rarely recommend reading of this type but, in this case, the reviews are merited and then some. Knowing the topic tells you if you are interested in it and, if you are, then this is a prospective normally never acquired.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written with taste, October 6, 2000
This review is from: A Father's Story (Paperback)
This book strips the glamorous notoriety off Dahmer. I realized how much of a sad, pathetic, expulsive life he led. Nowhere in this book does it attach the "intriguing" stigma that is so often seen in other true crime books. This book kills that stigma.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, January 9, 2012
Jeffrey Dahmer's father, Lionel, in 1991 published "A Father's Story". The book is a reflection on his life with Jeffrey and also an examination of himself, and is as honest as anything you'll read. Jeffrey's mental illness began to manifest itself in his grade school years, beginning with an inability or unwillingness to socialize with the other children in his grade. As a pre-teen, Jeffrey maintained an animal cemetery in the woods consisting of road kill which he'd strip of flesh to the bone and then bury. The book follows in detail Jeffrey's steady descent into alcoholism and madness.
Lionel Dahmer also remembers his troubled marriage to Jeffrey's mother as well as his own inadequacies: his failure to confront difficult situations and his retreating to the comfort of his job as a chemist, a situation in which he felt competent and comfortable. And he castigates himself for not doing a better job of dealing with a clearly troubled son who by high school was lost to his family.

Mr. Dahmer casts a lot of blame on himself, which I think is to a great degree excessive. He seems to have been an earnest man who did his best, within his limitations - which all parents have - to be a good parent, and Jeffrey does not seem to have been abused in any way. His upbringing seems to have been typically middle class.

Mr. Dahmer loved his son as a child, and even when Jeffrey's horrors were finally unearthed, he still loved him, even as he was heartbroken.
Can any of us imagine? As much as we who are parents can feel lost, helpless, and despairing for our children, can any one of us begin to feel the pain Mr. Dahmer must have felt and continues to feel to this day? Can any of us imagine the pain he must have felt at the end of his emotionally dead son's life when he was killed in prison in 1994?
What I am sure of is that Mr. Dahmer will never be free his pain until the day he dies.

"A Father's Story" is honest, introspective, and makes no attempt to shift the blame to external sources for what became of Jeffrey's life.
To present representative quote, Jeffrey is appearing before a judge for an earlier transgression. Mr. Dahmer writes, "As I watched Jeff speak to the judge, I felt a sudden sense of my own helplessness. Suddenly, and for the first time, I no longer believed that my efforts and resources alone would be enough to save my son."

The book is filled with exceptional photos of the
Dahmer family from Jeffrey's toddler years, through his final incarceration. It is very well written, outstandingly so, in fact, for a man who is not a writer.
You will not find a sadder book. I rate it 5 stars, but I could not read it again. It's too painful.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly well-written, June 15, 2011
I agree with the other reviewers in that this book is written in a reader-friendly and very genuine manner. I have several DVDs that include interviews with Lionel Dahmer, and this book definitely reflects his education and inner-most thoughts about the unfortunate life led by his eldest son. Seeing his interviews and reading his book make me wish I could be a pen pal with Mr. Dahmer or meet him for coffee somehow. He's an interesting man in his own right and I truly appreciate his candidness when discussing/writing about Jeff. I feel for him, Joyce, David, and Shari and wish them peace and closure. Overall conclusion: worth the read!
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A Father's Story
A Father's Story by Lionel Dahmer (Hardcover - Mar. 1994)
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