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Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son Paperback – January 7, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this gem of a book, the founder-editor of Mother Jones recalls growing up in New York City and on an idyllic Adirondack estate, the only child of wealthy parents who married late, and his painful relationship with his powerful, respected father. Despite his benevolent intentions, Harold Hochschildthe politically liberal chairman of a multinational firm that made its money by polluting, strip-mining and desecrating land that its inhabitants regarded as sacredintimidated his son; and as the son grew older, he did all he could to separate himself from his father's way of life. They fought "not like wrestlers but like diplomats"; their arguments were always polite and controlled, as if they were disagreeing over something trivial instead of over the course of young Hochschild's life. In this sensitive memoir, the so-very-correct German-Jewish-American parent is contrasted with his genial brother-in-law, a retired, decorated Czarist air-force pilot, who used his wife's ample funds to lavish money on more attractive women. Yet, as Hochschild senior mellowed in his 80s, his son grew to tolerate, appreciate and finally love the man he had feared all his life.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"One of the most interesting books of the year," said LJ's reviewer of this 1985 title. In it, Hochschild, cofounder of the magazine Mother Jones, reveals the relationship between himself and his rich father, who gave him everything money could buy-except love. As both aged, they eventually grew to understand and appreciate each other. This "honest, sensitive, and fascinating portrait of a father-son relationship" is recommended for biography and men's collections.
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: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (January 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061843920X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618439201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Demers on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Hochschild has written a gentle and elegant portrait of his family. I chose this book by pure luck (and Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost). I have been rewarded handsomely. It is one of my absolute favorite memoirs that I have ever read. It disturbed me, it moved me and set me on the way to examining and recalling my own memories, especially of the beauty of lost summers of yesteryear. Yet the book is able to deal with the complexities of extraordinarily difficult relationships, class and race consciousness and the very nature of power in society in a though provoking and beautiful way. Most importantly, Hochschild teaches that the past and all whom we know and love will live on within us.
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A memoir of the author's relationship with his father, Harold, whom he did not appreciate or understand as a child. He grew up in a privileged environment, as his father was a wealthy businessman, but received a lot of harsh criticism from his father. However, after marriage and two sons, he developed an understanding of his father's background and an unexpected peace finally was made between them. A well-written, hard-to-put-down book--deeply moving.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in 1988 for an autobiography class, and reread it about once a year. It is the only book that has ever brought me to tears. Anyone with a parent who kept their relationships with their children strictly formal will identify with this book.
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I found this book in the wonderful Morristown, NY library marked "Overdue Fines Apply" which means folks have been keeping it beyond the due date to reread it and pass it around. As soon as I finished it I went on Amazon and bought my own copy to pass around my family and north country friends. It is crafted as superbly as a St. Lawrence River skiff and portrays the contradictions of idyllic summers in the Adirondacks, suffocating but sublimated tensions between "Father"--that's what he was always called throughout the boy's life!--and this only-child author, who wondered early on what it could mean that his family, the scions of a copper-mining fortune, could be so privileged in a world where mineral wealth was more valued than human life. It is a great story, a great read, and casts shadows not so unlike those we all see in our own lives and families. The Thousand Islands and the Adirondacks are places of lower and middle class economic struggle with scores if not hundreds of places where the monied families of the Gilded Age spent their fortunes and created mythic lifestyles. Nobody has caught the results better.
Now excuse me, but I've got to back to Amazon to get what I was looking for in the village library--Hochschild's latest in a terrific line of historic portrayals of colonial Africa, colonial slavery, Stalin and, now, World War ITo End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

Jim Doyle
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While this is an interesting autobiographical saga of a famous and splendid writer, I found the first half of this book rather boring. The author goes on and on about his miserable to him childhood and his awful relationship to his father, fostered in part by his devoted mother, and his own personality. The richness of this story is in the latter part of the book where the real work of coming to terms with his early experiences and forming a real relationship with his father takes place. If I were in his place I'd rewrite the first part with the understanding of his later life to get the real benefit of the process.
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Format: Paperback
Adam Hochschild is the author of, among other books, "King Leopold's Ghost" and "Bury the Chains". He also is a journalist, who once worked at "Ramparts" and co-founded "Mother Jones". With a resumé like that, one might assume that he had grown up in lower socioeconomic circumstances. Far from it, however. His father was head of a large international mining company (at one time operating under the name AMAX). As a child, his family had an apartment on Park Avenue and a vacation estate, Eagle Nest, in the Adirondacks. There were chauffeurs, cooks, maids, gardeners, stable hands, and governesses. Adam went to a private boarding school (Pomfret) and then on to Harvard.

HALF THE WAY HOME is a memoir, written when Adam Hochschild was 44. Two interrelated themes predominate: first, his withdrawal (sometimes a little bittersweet) from the world of wealth and privilege; and second, his evolving uneasy relationship with his father. Harold Hochschild was a second-generation German Jew who minimized his Jewish heritage; for a long time Adam thought the reason was a profane drive for assimilation, but after his father's death he came to understand it was more complicated. Harold was extremely generous with his money and was loved and admired by virtually all with whom he interacted . . . except, for many years, Adam. Harold was a very disciplined man and he tended to be controlling and demanding of his only son, so much so that in his youth Adam would sometimes become physically ill if sequestered with his father. To Adam, Harold was forever "Father", not Dad or Daddy. (The servants at Eagle Nest referred to Harold as "Mr. Harold".)

As Adam ages, and as the memoir proceeds, he gradually understands his father better.
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