Thursday, July 28, 2011

Father Fiction

Over the last several months I have been tearing through each of the books author Donald Miller has written. It all started when a couple of friends told me that I might enjoy his well-known book Blue Like Jazz. What I found was an author whose style and approach and humor and viewpoint resonated with me. His conversational style has a way that makes me feel that he and I are sharing life over a cup of coffee. Thus I was looking forward to continuing our "relationship" when I picked up a copy of his book Father Fiction (originally published as To Own a Dragon).

Father Fiction is a work centering on how Miller's father left him and his mother when Miller was a young child. Growing up, this absence had a noticeable affect on him. It impacted how he did in school, how he viewed himself, and how he interacted with adults. However, it took him a very long time to truly come to grips with all of this. He was nearly 30 before he gained some perspective and understanding of the impact of growing up without a father. Of course, many use the notion of a "broken" family to cast blame for their bad or misguided choices on anyone and everyone except themselves. It turns out that accepting responsibility, growing up with focus and joy, can be achieved with the right mentors in our lives. When we finally come to a healthy equilibrium in time, we then have the responsibility to give back to others what has been given to us (contrasting so-called wounded healers with arrogant victims).

Although I grew up in a two-parent home, I too have some father issues that have impacted who I have become and how I look at myself. With this backdrop, I very much appreciated reading through Miller's thoughts on this subject. Even though they were very personal, he frames his discussion more generally to give encouragement and some ideas to anyone with father issues. Also, in terms of the writing itself in comparison to Miller's other books that I have read (Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts), this book was not as crisply tailored or as deep and interconnected, but I still very much enjoyed my time with it.