The Good Father by Noah Hawley.
This book really affected me in a way that I did not expect. The whole thing was a gut punch in the sense that I’m a new father. It’s about an absentee father whose son ends up assassinating a presidential candidate. The book backtracks as Dr. Paul Allen tries to put together the reason why his son did it. What he realizes is it was Dr. Allen’s negligence—of being focused on his job rather than on his family. Reading Hawley and reading this book was a real gut check for me. Is my life my work? Or is my life my family? It’s the latter. The former is a job—a job I love doing, that I’ll keep doing no matter whether I get paid for it ever, but nothing is more important than being here for my wife and kid. And that opens up worlds of character growth and story ideas.
Really, it was quite hard for me to read as a result of this experience. That said, what book hasn’t been hard for me to get through this month as a new dad? Not many. I guess except the comics I’ve been reading. That said, I’m enthralled with Hawley, especially the above passage which I quoted in my son’s journal.
What got to me overall was the last page when the son is sentenced to death and Allen witnesses it. That’s what nailed me:
Once he had been a newborn boy who drank from his mother’s breast. He learned to speak to say Mama. They were the first words he spoke every morning, calling to us from his crib. HE was a child who could not wait to see what the new day would bring, what new wonders. A boy who smiled with pure and unmitigated happiness every time he saw my face…he was the reason I had been born, my mission.
Finally, it’s in the acknowledgements that settled my late-night tears, and helped me come to a realization about my newfound fatherhood and what that means for my identity and my “work.”
To my father, Thomas Hawley, who taught me that it means to be a good father…and to my bonus father and mother, Mike and Trudy, I want to say thank you for taking me in and showing me that we are stronger with families than we are without. To Kyle, my wife, who supports me and gives my life meaning, thank you. You have made me a better man. And to Guinevere, my Guinevere, for whom anything that happened in the past happened “last weekend,” and who insists on growing up no matter how hard we try to stop her—thanks for letting me be your dad. You make me want to live forever.
I realized that I live for family and my “work” is for them.