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on October 21, 2016
Just reread this book because I liked it so much I wanted to read it again. I have been fascinated by serial killers since I was ten years old and I read The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule and I also remember when Jeffrey Dahmer was constantly on TV and in magazines for the series of 17 grisly homosexual murders. I feel truly awful for Lionel Dahmer and the rest of Jeffrey Dahmer's family. I am sure that they did the best they could to help Jeffrey throughout his life and had no idea that he was dangerous to anyone except himself until they heard about his arrest from the Milwaukee Police. It's just so sad that Jeffrey Dahmer never got the help that he needed before he became a ticking time bomb that exploded and took 17 young men down with him. Shortly after being sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole Jeffrey Dahmer was beaten to death with the bar from a weight bench by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver, already serving life for murder. I hope that Dr. Dahmer and his family are doing alright and I wish them all the best. And I really loved your book
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VINE VOICEon January 29, 2010
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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on August 14, 2009
I was already familiar with the basic outline of Jeff Dahmer's life before reading this. Even so, A Father's Story does a good job providing insight into why Jeff turned out the way he did. It provides a unique perspective of someone who was close to Jeff throughout his entire life, unlike any other book written about him.

One of the most striking revelations is how Lionel Dahmer never apparently quite understood just how inappropriate his reactions to Jeff's foul ups were. Although he candidly admits on numerous occasions that he would evade conflict by focusing on his PhD work or his job, he never quite admits how profoundly his tendency to avoid conflict could have affected Jeff. Every time Jeff screwed up in life (which was a lot), the father's reaction always seemed to have been to bail Jeff out of trouble (more or less), apply a one step "solution" to divert Jeff away from his foul up, then hope the problem would just go away. Not once does the father seem to reflect on how he had applied this failed tactic throughout all of Jeff's life.

It's also obvious that Lionel believed Jeff's explanations time and time again despite that Jeff was clearly a compulsive liar. Moreover, every bombshell that Lionel found out about, whether it was Jeff's alcoholism, arrests for sexual indecency, or homosexuality, he only found out about through others. Clearly then, Lionel's avoidance of Jeff's problems was itself a grave concern.

Having said that, Lionel was also a very caring father who unabashedly loved Jeff even after his death, and it's obvious that he raised Jeff the best way he knew how to. Despite Lionel's faults as a parent, Jeff was the one mainly responsible for becoming the barbaric killer that he ultimately became. And I have to give the father credit for writing, on more than one occasion, self-deprecating, embarrassing thoughts and stories about his own life. He was very brave to write this book.

So anyway, back to the point, if you're looking for a book that will give you fresh perspective into the life of Jeff Dahmer, you should read this.
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on November 30, 2011
A profound and sad look into the mind of the Dahmers, mainly Lionel Dahmer. Really gave me a look into what it would be like to wake up one day with your childs' face and life plastered all over the news, reporters outside of your door and coming to the realization that your child is becoming a huge part of crime history right as the day unfolds. This is a journey through a fathers mind as he searches his catalogue of memories in the struggle to find some sort of answer as to why his son turned out to become someone who became a mess. I really respect Lionel Dahmer for writing this book. It took an immense amount of courage... this is one of the most raw pieces of literature I've ever read. Lionel holds very little back here. After reading this book, it became very clear that Jeffrey Dahmer put a massive amount of effort into hiding his secrets. And Lionel Dahmer absolutely breaks that mold by revealing all of his....

5 stars.

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on November 19, 2012
I've read many books about Jeffrey Dahmer but none of them can be compared to this one. It was very eye opening to see Jeff portrayed as a human being and not just the monster the media made him out to be. It's an incredible story of forgiveness and compassion unlike any other I have ever read. I actually cried towards the end, it was a very touching story. I do wish it could have been longer though, and focused a little more on the happy times spent with Jeff but otherwise amazing read!!
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on October 20, 2010
This book was far more then I expected. Mr Dahmer says his story as genuinely as possible. It's a very sensitive issue he has to talk about, not everyone has a son who became a serial murderer. It's good to see the other side of the story of Jeff's life, his growing up and transformation into someone so distant to this world. As weird as it may sound, I could understand his pain and sorrow in an attempt to recognize the reason behind it all...while looking for his "lost" boy. Very moving.
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on July 17, 2013
The book was very interesting. I've always thought about the parents of the people who commit such terrible crimes so I was very intrigued to read this. It made me very sad, Mr Dahmer had to find a way to deal with what his son became. It must have been awful for him and his wife.
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on December 24, 2011
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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on July 7, 2015
I started reading this book but had to stop in disgust after skimming a few pages. The father was not only explaining away his own responsibility but forcibly exposing and damning every little fault of his son before his horrendous crimes. Saying he had some similar personality traits and he was distant to his son really states that while he had some of the same personality traits he did not become a killer as well as stating that he did not have enough contact with his son in order to realize the possibility of the son's insanity. As a confessed control freak he is really controlling the narrative of this story.

The father told one story, I can't remember if it's in the book or from an interview, that his grandmother was visiting and would spend the time in the son's room so the father searched every inch of the room and found a locked box in the closet. The box had a human skull in it but Jeffrey said it was pornography. The father told him to get rid of it before his grandmother arrived and this was done. Now, unless the grandmother was a habitual safe cracker, what does it matter to have a locked box in the closet. This demonstrates that the father has pathological control problems that led to a need to control what was in Jeffreys locked box. It appears that Jeffrey had no personal space of his own.

All the signs point to the father repeatedly sexually abusing Jeffrey. Sexual abuse is not about sexual desire but about control and violence. Teens drinking in high school is about experimentation, the thrill of doing something forbidden, and peer pressure. Teen alcoholism is another story, indicating a need to escape emotional trauma. At the same time, he becomes withdrawn, another sign of psychological strife - hynia operations aren't the reason. All these symptoms are indicative of sexual abuse. Jeffrey was an attractive guy and had lovers and would have little problem in getting guys to have sex with him. It struck me as odd that before the murders began, when he met guys at gay bars, he would drug many of the guys who he had sex with since these guys already agreed to have sex with him. This was compulsive controlling behavior usually picked up from prior trauma.

The descent into a ritual of drugging, having sex, and killing may be a reenactment of the father's abuse and then killing the father, using the victims as surregates. I can speculate about the cannibalism but it is too disgusting and I'll pass.

As the old adage goes "the father protesteth too much" about the sexual abuse. I would think that Jeffrey's life may have had a better trajectory if he had a loving family - or at least a half way decent upbringing.
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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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