A fictional father reveals his smoke-and-mirrors parenting style to his grown children in this debut epistolary novel.
One doesn’t know how hard parenting is until one actually becomes a parent. Before that, people blame their mothers and fathers for problems big and small, but after, most realize that their own parents were probably making it up as they went along. That’s the overall theme of this novel, in which a father writes a series of letters to his college-age kids. Each vignette is titled for a “lie” that adults tell children, such as, “There Is a Bunny Who Brings You Presents on the Day Jesus Rose from the Dead,” “Those Are Daddy’s Cookies,” and “Always Take the High Road, Because That’s What I Did.” In one, the father creates counterfeit currency in order to one-up his father-in-law’s tooth-fairy gift. In another, the die-hard football-fan dad is only able to listen to the Super Bowl game in the bathroom of a Chuck E. Cheese’s due to a kid’s birthday party. In each tale, it’s clear that dad, like all parents, was just doing the best he could and that his love for his children never wavered. In the prologue, “What Is This?” the father writes, “This is my side of the story. One day when you tell your future significant others, children, or therapists what horrible parents your mother and I were and how we ruined your lives, this book might help to exonerate us.” Overall, this work is like a much more cynical How I Met Your Mother, even though the father specifically says that his letters are not going to be like that TV show. Shahla’s style is believably colloquial, and that’s a good thing. There are times, though, when the father’s behavior may make readers want to shake him, such as when he thinks that his daughter is plotting to break up his marriage when she asks him to keep a secret from her mother. It would have been nice to get a more well-rounded view of the mother, though; instead, she’s depicted as a sometimes-nagging “domesticator” who helps to clean up her husband’s messes. Still, this book has a lesson for all: having children doesn’t always make one a responsible adult.
A novel with an entertaining setup that wavers a bit in tone and execution.