Fathermucker (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Fathermucker
Greg Olear, 2011
320 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2011

Olear's book is hilarious—starting with the title on the front cover: I can't rememeber laughing so often, one paragraph to the next, as I did reading Fathermucker.

The book, however, manages to be funny and poignant at the same time—as well as being a spot-on social satire.

Josh Lansky is sad and SAHD—a Stay-At-Home-Dad who drags his tired, sex-deprived, sorry self through the day raising two young children. It's an unvarnished portrait of caring for pre-schoolers, minute to minute, hour to hour, all day long, with no relief in sight, except collapsing into bed at night. Even then, there's no guarantee of peace.

Yet exhausted as he is, Josh is singularly—and lovingly—devoted to his kids. And to his wife. Stacy is away on business trip when a well-meaning(?) friend hints that Stacy may be having an affair. Josh is devastated.

Then there's the couple's Aspergers child, four-year-old Roland, who's fixated on floor plans, lighting fixtures, and the 50 states of the Union. For one entire chapter, Josh riffs about the history of his child interspersed with the history of Aspergers as a recognized neural disorder.

In fact, Josh intersperses all of his thoughts with snippets from Dr. Seuss, rock songs, and imagined screenplays. And lots, lots of popular culture references—from Facebook, 9/11, and food to TV, celebrities and the media that follow them. There's also much use of the "F" word, some potty-mouth, and frank sexual language. So please beware if you find these things off-putting.

The potency of the book lies in how it switches gender roles: Josh experiences what many women—who make up the majority of stay-at-home parents—feel: a loss of both identity and sexuality and too tired to do anything about either one. Here's how Josh puts it:

The notion of my so-called life—the lack of sleep, the lack of sex, the lack of money, the lack of social status, the lack of a social life, the lack, really, of almost everything....

Self-pitying to be sure, but the statement contains more than a grain of truth—which many moms can testify to. This is a delightful and insightful book and a fun book club read. Given the pop culture references (and language), however, it may be better suited to clubs with younger members.

See our Reading Guide for Fathermucker.

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