Review of ‘Father Figures’ edited by Paul Connolly
Poignant, hilarious, honest, surprising and moving, this collection of essays takes on the theme of fatherhood in all its many forms. From sons and daughters to proud uncles and ‘fathering’ with two mothers. Father Figures pulls together a diverse group of writers who together create an image of fatherhood that encompasses so much more than a traditional father’s day sentiment.
From the moment the ultrasound technician jokes that she is “seeing double”, Ben Pobjie realises life, as he knows it, is over. When a young Sami Shah crashes into a (literal) warlord’s car, he takes in the real measure of his giant seafaring father. Kerryn Phelps and her wife show that ‘fathering’ a child has nothing to do with gender. Benjamin Law revels in the part-time joys of committed uncledom. And Anson Cameron has learnt that being father to daughters is an unequal love affair.
Stepfathers, uncles, daughters, sons and – of course – fathers all have their stories to tell. William McInnes loving describes his long-suffering Dad, who taught him tolerance and regularly “encased” his “cabbaged-head” of a son in a bear hug, saying, “Hey, you – you are alright and I love you.” Paddy O’Reilly reflects on a complex relationship with a disciplinarian father who didn’t condone crying. And Tony Birch farewells his grandfather, Stan – the patriarch of his family.
There is plenty of warmth and love in these pages, but it doesn’t come at the expense of honesty and the – at times – complicated relationships we think about, when we think about the Father Figures in our lives. Editor Paul Connolly has made a real effort to reflect this in his choice of writers and the breadth of experiences that they cover. The pieces are well written, beautifully edited, and often laugh-out-loud funny. McInnes’ recollection of his father’s despair over his youngest son’s injuries following an attempt to make a DIY plaster cast of his head, will have you in stitches.
All told, this is a heartwarming collection. One to buy for the father figure in your life – whomever that may be.
With contributions from: Anson Cameron, Tony Birch, James Button, Barry Dickins, Gideon Haigh, Richard Hinds, Dominic Knight, Malcolm Knox, Benjamin Law, Kate Legge, William McInnes, Mischa Merz, Paddy O’Reilly, Kerryn Phelps, Angela Pippos, Nick Place, Ben Pobjie, Sami Shah, Tracey Spicer, Tony Wilson.
Paul Connolly is a freelance journalist whose work has featured in such publications as The Monthlyand Guardian Australia. Paul is also an author, a university tutor, and a soccer coach of little renown. At home, if you ask him, he’s a better than average partner and father of two. If he’s occasionally grumpy he feels he has good cause. He almost always remembers to put the bins out.