THE GOOD FATHER: On Men, Masculinity, and Life in the Family

Mark O'Connell, Author . Scribner $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5801-2

Psychologist O'Connell knows firsthand how it feels to need a father (having lost his own at an early age) and to be a father (having three children himself). As a practicing therapist, he's treated many fathers (and sons) over the years. His experience makes this parenting book—with its chapters on challenges like the "masculinity debate," sexuality, and violence and authority—an essential guide. From the opening pages, O'Connell acknowledges that being a father is immensely complex, so "this book, therefore, aims less to 'advise' than to begin a conversation." From there, he employs an easygoing tone, devoid of psychobabble or touchy-feelyism, to sort through the currents of thinking about maleness and fatherhood, pointing out where they run shallow, where deep, and where ideas have foundered. The main strength of O'Connell's method lies in its use of material from the author's own history as well as from his psychotherapy practice. Whatever the subject at hand—play, authority, mortality, sex—he addresses it specifically and anecdotally. The chapter on discipline, for example, opens with a memory from the author's childhood, weaves in a strand of information from his life as a father, adds material from one of his client's experiences, then expands into a general discussion of the issue. This approach allows readers to digest the complexities bit by bit and even begin the sort of dialogue the author desires. All fathers, and those who have fathers, stand to benefit from this useful book. Agent, Paul Bresnick. (Jan.)

Forecast: Lack of competition gives this book an advantage; its little-written-about subject should help it garner reviews and print features.

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4391-0418-7
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