A compelling memoir of fathers, sons, and the Brooklyn streets.
Every family has secrets. Ours were just bigger than others.
“My earliest memory is of a gun.” That gun was in his father’s hand – and it was pointed at his mother’s head. John Davis grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s on the rough streets of Brooklyn, a place where no one thought twice when parents smacked around their kids—or each other. At the center of the tumultuous neighborhood, and John’s world, was his larger-than-life father, Roberto. The Argentinean butcher and kingpin drug dealer was a sadistic bully whose mercurial temper left a trail of tears and chaos across his family. John, in particular, seemed to bear the brunt of Roberto’s wildly swinging moods. Any wrong word could cause an explosion. Every knock on the door might be one of Roberto’s enemies, or the police. In his publishing debut, Davis recounts how he spent his childhood in constant terror and his teen years learning to fight back. But it was much later, as an adult, that he learned the most shocking thing of all about his father, his past, and himself. Told with raw honesty and deep emotion, My Father’s Son is a memoir of fear, abuse, survival, and identity.
John Davis did not grow up in the most loving household. His father was verbally and physically abusive and a drug dealer. My Father’s Son is written in two parts. The first provides scenes of Davis’ childhood and interaction with his father. The second part tells a story of enlightenment and a family secret revealed during Davis’ adulthood.
My Father’s Son is a heartbreaking story of abuse. I am still in shock over this story. Davis paints a clear image of his father’s personality and brutality. Readers will witness many events, spanning over years, that show what life was like growing up in the Davis household. The focus is primarily on the father, but some stories involve the mother figure as well. Each chapter covers a different experience and Davis does a great job storytelling within those, however the transitions from chapter to chapter are a bit disconnected. As we enter the second half of this novel, the focus shifts away from the father figure and delves into a family dynamic.
I would liked to have seen more of the narrator in this novel. We learn a lot about the family members, but I feel that Davis is holding back on his emotions. Without giving the secret away, I will say that Davis opens up about his feelings and the impact of his upbringing at the very end (especially the epilogue). I just wish we saw this more in the first half – a more personal connection to the narrator versus an outsider looking in subjectively.
I enjoyed this novel. It isn’t something I would normally pick up, but I am happy to have read it. Davis had a story tell and he did so successfully.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital version of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.