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Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son Hardcover – May 15, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547816561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547816562
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #636,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Blunt, tender, sometimes harrowing, and always affecting, Father’s Day is a triumph. Bissinger unfurls the whole fabric of love and pride and heartbreak and salvation that makes a family, with an honesty that will make you gasp."

Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief

 

"Bissinger has the great writer’s gift of showing us we are not alone. Here he explores the religion all parents share: that our children’s essential goodness will somehow grant them safe passage through a rough world. What a book! Every parent should read it."

Chris Matthews, host of Hardball and author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

 

"I loved this unflinching, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant tale of disability and difference, and what it means to be a father, a son, and a man."

Jennifer Weiner, author of Then Came You and Fly Away Home

 

"Buzz Bissinger's memoir — a paean to his remarkable son — is tender, funny, frightening at moments when love is re-stated; even brave — which memoiristic writing rarely gets the chance to be. It also reads as unflinchingly true, which should give it a long and useful life in the reader's heart." 

Richard Ford

 

"Father's Day is the story of a road trip like no other. Searing and heartfelt, this is not just an unforgettable portrait of a father and his son; it is a love story that speaks to the mystery, pain, and exhilaration of being human."

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower and The Last Stand

 

"This brave and beautiful memoir gets at the core of what it means to be a parent — how painful it can be, how scary it can get, and how rewarding it is. By facing a challenge that would try any of us, and beat many of us, Bissinger emerges a better man. He not only finds his son, but himself, and the reader finds something, too. After reading Fathers Day, I’ve rethought my assumptions about what makes a successful and worthy life. Ultimately, this is a mesmerizing story about how we can all be better."

David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy

 

"Buzz Bissinger has given completely of himself in this moving book about his son Zach, who was born too small, too soon. There is the father's disappointment and guilt, his confusion and frustration, his wonder and love. That Zach has a twin brother, who grew up unscathed, and that Zach's mind is as divided as his father's emotions, makes the story all that more compelling. Father's Day is wonderfully, achingly written, with all the doubt that tells you how truthful it is."

Frank Deford, author of The Old Ball Game and The Entitled

 

"Every father of a special needs child should read this very insightful book." 

Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation

 

"A fiercely honest memoir about the complex hard drive of a son's brain and the balky software of a father's heart. Though his story is singular, Bissinger makes it feel like part of that eternal saga — fathers and sons trying to connect."

J.R. Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar

"Gorgeous and brutally honest . . . As much as this is a book for parents, who know well the crushing vulnerabilities of the job, it is also a story for grown children who understand what it means to love an imperfect parent. Would that we were all as forgiving as Zach.  Grade: A” – Entertainment Weekly

"Riveting . . . Impossible to put down."  -- New York Times

"Visceral, arresting, and frank." -- O Magazine

"A really good book, no matter what its genre, delivers a level of humanity that is both breathtaking and elemental. In Father’s Day, Buzz Bissinger has delivered such a work . . . It's every bit as good [as Friday Night Lights]. By telling his own story, Bissinger has given voice to parents of special-needs children everywhere. Moreover, he has given everyone a story of hope, humor and humanity."  -- Houston Chronicle

"Gorgeous and brutally honest . . . As much as this is a book for parents, who know well the crushing vulnerabilities of the job, it is also a story for grown children who understand what it means to love an imperfect parent. Would that we were all as forgiving as Zach.  Grade: A” – Entertainment Weekly

“Bissinger may not seem like a likely candidate to pen a tender memoir—but he has.” -- People

"A raw, intimate memoir that holds nothing back . . . Achingly tender." -- Seattle Times

"A testament to his searing love for his disabled son." -- Boston Globe

“Bruising yet tender.” – Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"[Bissinger's] greatest accomplishment to date is sharing with the world the inner life of his son Zach  . . . The feel-good moments here are rarely sappy or sentimentalized, and it’s not giving anything away to tell you that there’s no trite happy ending here. What we get instead is something far more beautiful and substantial. We get to know Zach — and ourselves. Every high school in America should add this memoir to its curriculum. Father’s Day implores us not only to open our hearts to the mentally challenged people around us, because that goes without saying. It also asks us to take the time to learn what every living soul has to teach us — even the ones who don’t fully understand their own gifts. In gaining a new appreciation for his son’s unique voice and by sharing it with such intimacy and compassion, Bissinger has done himself, his family, and his readers a tremendous service." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

"A wrenchingly honest road tale."  -- Publishers Weekly

"Moving . . . By being so open about his own struggles as a father, Bissinger turns our eye back toward ourselves, prompting, perhaps, a similar honesty in our own self-reflections. Although its subject matter is vastly different from that of the popular Friday Night Lights, readers of that book will note the same keen eye for character and emotion here." -- Booklist

About the Author

Buzz Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller 3 Nights in August and Friday Night Lights, which has sold two million copies and inspired a film and TV franchise. He is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and a sports columnist for The Daily Beast. He has written for the New York Times, The New Republic, Time and many other publications.


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Customer Reviews

I read both books this week.
Brendon Cull
Thanks to Mr. Bissinger for sharing some very private and personal feelings about his family life and specifically his relationship with his son.
Squid
Buzz Bissinger's writing is eloquent and funny and observant and poignant.
Cynthia K. Robertson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Keith Heapes VINE VOICE on April 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished reading an advanced copy of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger's yet unpublished book titled "Father's Day." He has written two New York Times bestsellers: "Three Nights in August" and "Friday Night Lights," the latter being made into a film and eventually a TV series. As the subtitle indicates, Bissinger's book is primarily about "A Journey Into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son."

SPOILER ALERT: There may be plot information beyond this point that some readers may not want to know. If so, stop now or continue reading at your own risk.

Bissinger goes into great pains to describe the births of his twin boys, Gerry and Zach, who were born over three months premature (13 1/2 weeks) and often through literary flashbacks fills in even more details. The boys were born three minutes apart, three minutes that separated them into two completely different social, economic and academic worlds. Gerry, as Bissinger described him, was among the "Normals," while during the intervening three minutes, Zach suffered partial brain damage. Gerry is currently seeking an advanced degree at the University of Pennsylvania, with aspirations toward becoming a teacher; Zach, on the other hand, spent his childhood mostly in special schools and works in a stockroom.

In his own words, Bissinger describes his feelings for Zachary:

"It is strange to love someone so much who is still so fundamentally mysterious to you after all these years. `Strange' is a lousy word, means nothing. It is the most terrible pain of my life. As much as I try to engage Zach, figure out how to make the flower germinate because there is a seed in there, I also run from this challenge. I run out of guilt. I run because he was robbed and I feel I was robbed.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have been a fan of Buzz Bissinger since his Philadelphia Inquirer days, so I jumped at the chance to get his new book, Father's Day: A Journey Into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son. This wonderful book is actually a journey on many levels. It's a physical journey as Bissinger takes a car trip with Zachary, his savant son, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. It's a journey to explore the psyche of Zach. But throughout the journey, we learn just as much about father as we do about son. Father's Day is a book that is moving, funny, endearing, and disturbing in equal parts.

Zachary Bissinger and his twin brother, Gerry, were born 13 weeks premature. While both of them struggled at birth, Gerry has developed normally and is in grad school at the University of Pennsylvania. Because Zachary was born 3 minutes later, he suffered trace brain damage. Although he has an IQ of 70, he's a savant with extraordinary gifts of memorization in calendaring and maps. Bissinger has spent near 25 years trying to decipher the mystery of Zach. "It is strange to love someone so much who is still so fundamentally mysterious to you after all these years." Having a special needs son "is the most terrible pain of my life." In addition to pain, it has also brought the author profound guilt and shame. Bissinger sees a cross country trip as a way to bond with Zach, to rediscover each other, to fall in love again.

Zach is not good with new things and change, so Bissinger decides that their trip will include people and places that Zach already knows--Chicago, Milwaukee, Odessa, and Los Angeles. The only new adventure will be to Las Vegas. As with all trips, things don't go as planned. Zach doesn't always react the way his father wants. They get lost.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Buzz Bissinger is a famous author (Friday Night Lights). Buzz Bissinger is the father of twins (Gerry and Zach). Buzz Bissinger is the father of a brain-damaged son, now an adult.(Zach) "Father's Day" brings in all of the many roles Buzz plays, with the emphasis on finding his way to accept his son Zach's abilities and disabilities.

Zach was born three minutes after his brother. Those three minutes seem to have made a difference in the oxygen to his brain. Gerry is Ivy League; Zach is different, always was and always will be.

The competitor in Buzz wants both his sons to shine in the world of education, sports, and human relationships. Gerry does. Zach, no. Many of Zach's qualities of social impairment and scripting of language make him sound autistic although that is not what the numerous psychological studies have shown. Zach is a savant when it comes to calendaring. His favorite things are maps and birthdays. Conversations with Zach, which Buzz recorded for years in preparation for this book, are delivered in a staccato framework of questions and factual statements, often with little link among them.

Buzz has decided to learn more about his son, taking him on a journey across America to old places they used to live. The meltdowns are mostly on Buzz's part as he finds communicating with Zach over the endless miles a chore almost beyond his ability as a parent. Buzz forgets bags. Buzz can't find exits. Buzz wants to scream and pound his head against the wall.

Zach shows patience with his father though Zach never wanted to drive on the journey in the first place. There are incredible moments of tenderness between father and son as Buzz tries new rides at the amusement parks that Zach loves and eats the Mexican food Zach chooses.
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