Fathers Aren't Supposed to Die: Five Brothers Reunite to Say Good-Bye

T. M. Shine, Author
T. M. Shine, Author Simon & Schuster $20 (224p) ISBN 978-0-684-86351-1
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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A feature writer for the Florida weekly newspaper City Link, Shine has written a brave, painfully honest account of his father's death at 78 from a subdural brain hematoma, which precipitated the reunion of the author and his four brothers, who had drifted apart. Virtually camping out in the hospital intensive care unit, taking turns at keeping vigil, the brothers question God, debate living wills, relive boyhood memories, curse out the uncommunicative, at times amazingly callous, doctors and debate whether or not to pull the plug on their father's life-support as he lies speechless and motionless after surgery. Each son sees a different father: to some he's a no-nonsense tough guy, while to others he is still Daddy, who cannot possibly leave them. Shine fends off the Grim Reaper blues with deadpan humor that makes for lively, grabbing reading. Beneath his stance of almost flip detachment, however, runs an undercurrent of love tinged with regret and sorrow, as he fitfully tries to reconnect with his mute father, with brothers grown distant and with his mother, ""a precious but ornery old lady"" wrapped in depression and stoic reserve. Halfway through the book, Shine--and the reader--receive a tremendous shock, making for a double-barreled tragedy that reduces the author to a primal scream. His father, a WWII veteran, gets a ceremonial burial in Arlington National Cemetery, but there is no closure: grieving takes a lifetime, and fractured families don't magically cohere. This open-ended, raw quality lends Shine's agnostic memoir its power and healing grace. (Apr.)
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