Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: Not My Father's Son

Summary: In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

A beloved star of stage, television, and film—“one of the most fun people in show business” (Time magazine)—Alan Cumming is a successful artist whose diversity and fearlessness is unparalleled. His success masks a painful childhood growing up under the heavy rule of an emotionally and physically abusive father—a relationship that tormented him long into adulthood.

When television producers in the UK approached him to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, Alan enthusiastically agreed. He hoped the show would solve a family mystery involving his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East. But as the truth of his family ancestors revealed itself, Alan learned far more than he bargained for about himself, his past, and his own father.

With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as a film, television, and theater star. At times suspenseful, deeply moving, and wickedly funny, Not My Father’s Son will make readers laugh even as it breaks their hearts. -- Dey Street Books

One of the books that I was most looking forward to reading after attending this year's BEA was NOT MY FATHER'S SON by Alan Cumming. I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with the folks from Harper Collins, and they were so excited about this memoir. Even though I heard pitches for quite a few books, this one really stood out to me... and it wasn't just because I'm a fan of The Good Wife. I could tell that the publicist was passionate about this book, and needless to say, I desperately wanted to read it.

NOT MY FATHER'S SON proves, without a doubt, that truth can be stranger than fiction. Alan Cumming, star of movies, television, and the stage, shares with readers the the difficult relationship that he had with his father. As a child, Cumming was both emotionally and physically abused by his father. Of course, this abuse had a major affect on him the rest of his life, and he spent a great deal of time trying to work through his issues.

In 2010, Cumming was approached to do a celebrity genealogy show in the UK. He decided to do it with the hopes of solving the mystery about his maternal grandfather, a World War II hero who disappeared to the Far East. However, the producers of the show had a huge surprise for Cumming concerning his father!

Cumming tells this incredible story by weaving back and forth between his childhood experiences in Scotland and his current life as a famous actor. He is brutally honest about his experiences and the pain his father caused him, yet he also provides some wit and humor into the story. Overall, NOT MY FATHER'S SON is a fantastic read.

There are quite a few things that I appreciated about NOT MY FATHER'S SON. First and foremost was Cumming's actual story. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say, that parts of this memoir reads like a mystery or even a suspense novel. I found the story about Cumming's grandfather to be interesting in its own right; however, what he learned about his father was absolutely amazing. As I read this book, I kept saying to myself, "Can this really be true?"

Another wonderful thing about NOT MY FATHER'S SON was the writing. I had no doubt of Cumming's performance abilities prior to reading this book, and now I have no doubt of his writing skills. The story is very well written and I really appreciated how he told the story. The flashbacks to his childhood were entertaining, albeit difficult to read; and his prose was pitch perfect. This might come across wrong, but I was surprised by how good of a writer Cumming is.

Finally, I loved the honesty that Cumming had in writing this story. Because Cumming was so honest, brutally so at times, I felt fully vested in his story. I truly couldn't believe the pain he experienced as child and then again as an adult. My heart broke for him to have to relive so many of his experiences with his abusive father, and the unknowns about his past had to almost drive him crazy. What really impressed me though is how much humor Cumming incorporated into the story. There were parts of this book that were really, really funny; and I do think this wit really added to enjoyment of the book. Not to mention, Cumming's sense of humor most likely helped him deal with father.

Overall, I loved NOT MY FATHER'S SON and I highly recommend to fans of memoirs. However, since it almost reads like a novel, I think the audience could include just about any one who appreciates a good story.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I'm a memoir junkie so this sounds perfect for me.

Amelia said...

I heard about this at a Book Buzz done by HC and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I am so looking forward to this! I have my copy from BEA but I am really thinking of listening to it on audio as he narrates this one himself!

Beth F said...

Like Sheila, I was thinking of listening to it. I too was taken in by the pitch at BEA and I'm looking forward to it.