From Publishers Weekly
Novelist Langer (Ellington Boulevard
) remembers his late father, a disabled Chicago radiologist, as brilliant and driven, but also distant and contradictory. For more than 30 years, his father talked about writing a history of the Bonus March, which Langer describes as a pivotal but now mostly forgotten event, when some 20,000 WWI veterans marched on Washington for two months during the Depression, demanding advance payment of bonuses due in 1945, until a bloody confrontation with the U.S. cavalry left two protesters dead. The Bonus March comes to represent for Langer a key to my dad's inner life, so he decides to research the event and his father's relationship to it, along the way pondering whether his grandfather, possibly a WWI vet, participated in the march and whether it had particular resonance for a man who had difficulty walking. Langer's interviews range from his father's old friends and relatives to notables like Norman Podhoretz and John Kerry, who modeled his Vietnam protests on the march. Unfortunately, this frustrating combination of personal memoir, biography and American history falls flat as Langer barely scratches the surface of the Bonus March, and his father remains inscrutable and lackluster to readers. (Oct. 20)
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“Chicago’s own bard, Studs Terkel, would be proud, maybe even envious, of Adam Langer’s terrific tale. He weaves American history, his father’s Depression era coming of age, and his own experience growing up in the ’70s and ’80s into a narrative quilt so artful it covers a reader's sensibility with warmth and beauty. This is truly a multigenerational treat.”—Peter Davis, Academy-Award winning directory of Hearts and Minds
“Adam Langer has written a family mystery story that takes the reader back to a complex past, created from other people's recollections and Adam's own pilgrimage to an event hardly touched by American memory.”—Thomas B. Allen, co-author of The Bonus March: An American Epic.
“My Father’s Bonus March
is a fascinating and touching book, part personal memoir, part history. Its examination of the Bonus March of 1932 through the eyes of father and son is an extraordinary exhibition of the personal meanings of history.”—Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent
“A wonderful, heartfelt book.”—Ken Burns
“At last–a memoir that understands the deepest mission of first person narrator, which is to be a steward of history. Adam Langer’s magnificent documentary work in My Father’s Bonus March
is a meticulous reconstruction, part detective story, part elegy, and altogether alluring in its fine attention and relentless search into the Depression and out again. This remarkable book comes to us just when we need it and has an uncanny and haunting resonance for our times.”—Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter
“My Father's Bonus March
is a brilliant and beautiful work of memory, a hymn to boyhood, a hymn to Chicago, that somber city, driven by the need that drives all those rare books that you know, on first encountering, you will re-read and cherish–the need to get back what has been lost.”—Rich Cohen, author of Sweet and Low
“A truly fascinating flashback to the Great Depression. My Father's Bonus March
is a work of genuine integrity and wise reflection.”—Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty
and The Great Deluge