35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A journey within a journey...,
This review is from: Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program (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. He loses too much money gambling in Vegas and is frustrated with conversation with his son. Bissinger loses his camera bag, and becomes volatile when angry or frustrated. His poor behavior makes Bissinger realize that "I am not at peace with my son. I am not at peace with the helpless horror of how he came into the world and what he became because of it. I don't know if I ever will be and I do what I do when in conflict--take it out on someone else, too often someone I love." But by the end, the author has also made new discoveries about Zach. Zach is a survivor. He knows what he wants as he moves toward a more independent life. Zach is true and sincere and honest. And that maybe Zach has taught his father more lessons about life than the other way around. Zach "is not the child I wanted. But he is no longer a child anyway. He is the most fearless man I have ever known, and the most admirable."
While Bissinger claims this book is about Zach, it's also about the author. Throughout the trip, Bissinger reflects not just on Zach and his challenges, but also his parents' deaths, his success with Friday Night Lights, his failure with NYPD Blue, his three marriages and his two other sons. Buzz Bissinger's writing is eloquent and funny and observant and poignant. I had to laugh at his comments about Ikea. Zach's bedroom was furnished with everything Ikea, "where all men shop after divorce, the silent Ikea secret handshake as we write out with a stubby pencil the list of furniture we must have by this evening because the kids are staying over for the first time and we need to provide a stable atmosphere fast and try not to get too upset when you put something together and there are still 85 pieces left." But the fun is tempered by heartache. "How can they be twins? Sometimes I wonder if they are even related. My pride in Gerry tamps down because of the guilt I feel for Zach. The goddam guilt. The scrapmetal weight shackled to my ankle. It's always there."
How good is Father's Day? It's good enough that even though I received this copy through Amazon Vine, I intend to purchase a finished copy when it's officially published in May.
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Initial post: May 21, 2012 11:41:38 AM PDT
Arnie Goldman says:
I totally agree. This is a great book and one of the most honest summations of family life I have ever read. Tremendous.
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