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Rattlesnake Daddy: A Son's Search for His Father Reprint Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1935218180
ISBN-10: 1935218182
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Editorial Reviews


"Rattlesnake Daddy is a real page-turner, and like the best mysteries it pushes aside the grim fact of death in favor of the life-affirming attempt to understand."─Oronte Churm, Inside Higher Ed

From the Back Cover

"Powerful and moving. Spencer writes like a bruised angel."--Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World and Writing the Sacred Into the Real

"Brent Spencer's Rattlesnake Daddy paints a wonderfully vivid portrait of a chaotic, colorful, venomous man who was the author's absent father.  Spencer turns his father's nomadic life and puzzling death in the Florida Keys into a true-life mystery story, rendered with quiet clarity, deep compassion, and a pitch-perfect voice.  Spencer's writing is truly exquisite."--Dinty Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire and The Accidental Buddhist
"'A father is the mystery his son never solves,' Spencer writes.  But in this haunted and haunting memoir/detective story, he comes as close as he can without actually crawling into his father's rattlesnake skin."--Robin Hemley, author of Do-Over! and Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness

"Rattlesnake Daddy is the compelling story of a son's chase, a journey into secrets and mysteries and the venom of the past, present, and future. It is also an attempt at intimacy and understanding. Populated with a cast of remarkable characters and a sequence of stunning scenes, Rattlesnake Daddy is unforgettable for its clear-sighted contemplation of the sins of the father, and in their wake, the complicated yearnings of the son."--Lee Martin, author of From Our House and The Bright Forever

"Rattlesnake Daddy is amazing.  Alternately horrifying, funny, analytical, and heart-wrenching, it skillfully and affectingly tells a father-son story like none I've ever encountered: of a cruel and menacing psychopath who managed to seem not just sane but admirable, and of a son who overcame endless varieties of torture to write this stunning memoir of good riddance.  Out of what Brent Spencer calls his father's "catalogue of mysteries," he has crafted a literary form of exorcism that is nothing less than a masterpiece."--Ron Hansen, author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Exiles

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: The Backwaters Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935218182
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935218180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,623,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By maddog on June 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
For the last two decades we have been bombarded by memoirs and "project" books. Most of them are uninspired because writing has become a function of the idea and not a process in the service of the art. And though I am not completely jaded by our cultural and literary enterprises, I am aware that Helen of Troy has been replaced by Snooki. As a teacher, I am truly happy for those people that become empowered to write their stories; however, a good story does not make a good writer, and quite often a good writer cannot make a good story. "Rattlesnake Daddy," is that rare and exquisite achievement that comes as a gift to a gifted writer. I would not have wished this author's life on him, the tyranny of a troubled father, the anger of abandonment, the innumerable acts of violence and rage acted out on him--but he has managed to serve notice to his readers that our lives are what we have and, however difficult, we navigate through them. This is an inspired story of staking claim to the baggage of one's life. It is not a Disney movie, far from it--it is sometimes all too real. It is a journey, an encounter with the ghosts that many parents can be. It is a beautifully structured book, intelligent in design and execution. But for me what is most rewarding in the book is that ultimately the father and son are "united" by their writing, by the keeping of papers, letters, journals, even assignments from school. In many respects the book is an "Ars Poetica," addressing the lasting value of good writing---how it may connect generations, fathers to sons, stranger to stranger. It was for me a blessing to read, a gift that I will surely share. It is a generous, brave, and extremely well-written account of a necessary, if not vital, passage.
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I was on board from the get-go. It takes guts to bare this much of yourself, but it takes skill to do it in a way that makes it a personal journey for the reader as well. Anyone who's gone in search of a father, in life or in death, is likely to find this harrowing, brave book a liberation. Not all of us have as many clues to guide our journey--garbage bags full of his father's documents, in Brent Spencer's case--but don't the leavings of a parent's life just give us a landscape in which to take the inner journey of memory to discover the people who formed us?

The questions of life on the border--the push of abuse and the pull of belonging--become crystal clear as Spencer treks along the US-Mexican divide: will you be kicked out? admitted? Do you have the right to stay? Any rights at all? And how exactly did you earn those rights? Each reader may find different answers, but it's a pleasure to have Brent Spencer as a companion on the journey.
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Brent Spencer's Rattlesnake Daddy is an astounding read. All the other reviewers have rightly praised this work regarding ways it spoke to them. My focus here is purely on reading it as a father.

This should at the least be elective reading for all parents but fathers and their children will benefit from it most of all. What Spencer does here is shine a light on what children come to the table with and how a bad parent (and Spencer's father is so bad it isn't fair to rattlesnakes the world over) can utterly and permanently scar a human mind and soul. Spencer's storytelling is comfortable and compelling like sitting with an old friend who has decided to open up about something that has been troubling him. There are moments of heartbreak that will take away the reader's breath and leave any ordinary compassionate person shaking with rage at the cruelty that Spencer survives. What makes it more infuriating is that the person inflicting this abuse is someone that all persons are hard wired to trust and look to for guidance.

But Spencer does survive. He survives and brings us this story, his story. This work is a testament to human spirit, intelligence and sheer toughness. Spencer paints a portrait of a wounded psyche that struggles to reconcile a horrific cheat. All people want and need fundamentals from their parents. How does a responsible human being respond when those needs are met with unfathomable cruelty instead of love. This is more than a survivor's account, it is a settling of accounts as the author struggles with the demon that was his father and the terrible gift of dark spirits that father gave him.

Do yourself a favor. Buy and read this book.
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This book was nothing like what I expected. I started reading and suddenly got grabbed and pulled in. I couldn't really stop until I got to the end. It was a draw I had not expected from what kind of book I believed this to be. I really felt like I was part of the quest as I read, from the way Spencer conveys tension in what has already happened, the way some of the scenes explode out of the page, the way that the narrative is a mixture of Spencer revealing things to us and him discovering things along with us. There was considerably more darkness than I expected as well. Clearly there was more autobiographical material used in "The Lost Son" than I had previously thought. In any event, this book is dramatic and gripping. Be prepared to read it all the way through, because just as there are some questions we will never have answers to, there are some rides that only stop when they get to the end and not when it is convenient for the riders.
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