DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP: Finding My Father While Lost at Sea

Neil Steinberg, Author . Ballantine $22.95 (240p) ISBN 0-345-43675-X

In 1999, Steinberg, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, decided that he and his father, Bob, a retired NASA physicist, would spend three months together aboard a merchant marine training ship, just like the one on which Bob worked as a radio operator almost 50 years before. Apparently, those years at sea were some of the 65-year-old's best, and the younger Steinberg, then 37, hoped to help him recapture that heady time (Bob wanted to write his memoirs) and also strengthen their own relationship. But from the outset, Bob proves to be a difficult traveling companion, and the author's frustration quickly becomes the reader's. When the air-conditioning fails, Bob is "like one of those fossils in an old-age home, b-tching that bingo night is mismanaged." In Italy, the author begs his father to slow down and see the sights; Bob responds by asking if his son remembers the time he read a book while the family drove through the Rockies. Reading this short memoir, one can't help rooting for the troubled son as he strains to reconcile with his ornery and aloof father. But resolution isn't to be: upon parting at a hotel in Chicago, Steinberg writes, "this was the last obvious dramatic high point of the trip, and it, too, was passing by with a dull thud." This is an ably written and sometimes poignant tale, but when Steinberg returns home empty-handed—no hugs and tears, no major insights—it's enough to make one wonder why he felt the need to write it. (May)

Forecast:This would be an obvious Father's Day title if it were uplifting—which it isn't—but expect good Chicago-area sales and some holiday interest anyway.

Reviewed on: 04/29/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!