Reviews -- Every Father's Daughter


Without shying away from the painful parts of life, this anthology celebrates the role of fathers in their daughters' lives.
Every Father's Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember Their Fathers, selected and presented by novelist Margaret McMullan, is a heartfelt, honest look at the father---daughter relationship.
The book is full of fondness, beginning with McMullan's experiences, but disappointment and hurt are inherent in all relationships, and that seems especially true with fathers and daughters. Yet, on the whole, this collection is compassionate and eschews bitterness. It doesn't shy away from the painful parts of life and the failures of fathers. Overall, it is a celebration of the role of fatherhood and a celebration of self---we are who we are, the authors seem to echo, because of our fathers: who they were and who they weren't.
Each chapter is written by a different writer, and the chapters are grouped by three larger themes: "Absences," "Lost & Found," and "Presences." These ideas, in addition to the general theme of father-daughter relationships, unify and give shape to the book. As no two relationships are alike, no two of the women's voices are alike. The sole male voice, the introduction by Phillip Lopate, gives a more distant, overarching picture of the father-daughter bond---tracing linguistic, gender, and sociological facets.
McMullan includes Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley, and essayists, journalists, novelists, and writers of various levels of acclaim, and seems to include every literary prize and professional writing achievement. About ten of the selections have been previously published, but the bulk of the anthology is new material.
This book will be most enjoyable for adult women who are grappling with, cherishing, searching for, or remembering their fathers. These women's voices will also give fathers---young, old, and in between---insight into how their lives and presence affect their daughters.
In this anthology, nearly every daughter will find a voice that resonates with her own paternal relationship.

KIRKUS REVIEWS: A collection of essays on the father-daughter dynamic. Editor and novelist McMullan (Literature and Writing/Univ. of Evansville; Sources of Light, 2010, etc.) presents 24 ways of "knowing" one's father by accomplished, independent daughters, each with a folksy introduction to help situate the relationship in place and time. For many of these authors, the father was a tall, handsome, impossibly romantic character in the family, removed from the quotidian, often remote, and whose approval the daughters tried to maintain. In a twist on this theme, Jane Smiley writes how ultimately relieved she was not to know her father—who perhaps suffered from PTSD and divorced her mother when the author was a toddler—because his absence allowed her the space to grow up "free of preconceptions." Some of the contributors offer reminiscences following their fathers' deaths—e.g., Jill McCorkle in "My Dad." In "My Father's Daughter," Bliss Broyard fills in a deeper portrait of her philandering, brilliant, bookish father by talking to his lively, lifelong best friends in Greenwich Village, concluding ruefully that she should have paid more attention to her father when he was alive. Melora Wolff offers an excellent view of the glamorous world of visiting fathers from the first-person, plural view of young ladies at New York City's Brearley School, while Barbara Shoup describes her father's vanishing into alcoholism in her excruciating essay "Waiting for My Father." Throughout, fathers often represent the world of work, whether in the "special places" like the gambling house that Maxine Hong Kingston describes in "The American Father" or the sacred writing den that was strictly off limits to boisterous children, as depicted in Alexandra Styron's "Reading My Father." Other contributors include Jayne Anne Phillips, Antonya Nelson, Ann Mason and Alice Munro, and Phillip Lopate provides the introduction. Consistently elucidating portraits.--Kirkus Reviews

"Unique, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, Every Father's Daughter is a very special anthology that is deeply engaging and exceptionally well organized and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended additional to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections."—The Midwest Book Review

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