Sep 20, 2018

[Books] I'm Not My Father's Son Audible Review


Celebrity memoirs tend to follow a particular pattern. We get some anecdotes from childhood followed by various stories of how they advanced in their respective careers and eventually we get to the part that we're more familiar with in terms of public knowledge. Sometimes the books explore this part of their lives as well. Sometimes they end right before that moment.

Not My Father's Son is a very different book that is striking in its honesty. And not just about being open about his life in general. Instead the book is very focused on a particularly traumatic aspect of his life and how he learned to deal with it over the years.

It's a striking tale and not the sort of candidness that you normally expect from a public figure.

Synopsis: Not My Father's Son is a memoir by Alan Cumming. This review covers the unabridged Audible audiobook edition read by the author.

The book largely takes place in two periods. In the present we largely follow Alan Cumming around the time he is invited to participate in a genealogy show called Who Do You Think You Are? to find out more about his maternal grandfather. In the past we get a glimpse of what his life was like growing up in Scotland. On the surface this sounds like a standard enough approach to any such celebrity memoir.

The main difference is that his father was particularly cruel to Alan and regularly subjected him to rather harsh punishments for the slightest of perceived slights or mistakes. And this mistreatment went on for years with no immediately discernible reason as to why. And thus as Alan explores his family history through the show, he also uses the book to look back at his own life.

What I Liked: The best stories are the ones told honestly and this book is painfully real. This was obviously not an easy story for him to tell and I can only hope that the process of writing the book also helped him move on and reclaim his life fully. I don't want to go into detail all that much since really this is his story to tell and I can only assure you that it's a very powerful story.

And the decision to use Who Do You Think You Are? as a bit of a framing device made narrative sense. And it's not like that was the B-roll story either - the story of his grandfather had its own share of drama. And it all comes together to tell a much bigger story - and that totally made sense. And at the end of the day this is the truth that Alan had to share and you can't make things like this up.

What Could Have Been Better: It's a little trickier to keep tabs on when things shift back and forth in terms of time setting when it comes to the audiobook. It's the usual challenge for these translations and the fact that we're not always 100% focused on the book when we're listening It's a minor complain but one that can leave you feeling a little disoriented a times.

Beyond that, it may boil down to a matter of preference and personal sensibilities. The book has a fair amount of sensitive content that is not necessarily graphic in its description but it can be potentially for triggering for people who have experienced trauma. Take that warning as you will.

TL;DR: I'm Not My Father's Son lives up to its title as it is a rather thorough personal exploration and examination of his life. It is a privilege that he chose to share his story with the world. Thus the book gets a great 4.5 mixed stories of his life out of a possible 5.


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