A man tenders heartfelt reflections on the meaning of fatherhood.
Smith, whose career as a disaster-recovery specialist would seemingly well prepare him for the job of fathering, serves forth this collection of memories and aperçus to all interested parties, though with the clear intention that it is primarily for his own children’s benefit. He makes no special claims to superpowers as a father or an advisor, and his disarmingly unvarnished tone and large measure of self-effacement almost instantly qualify him as someone to whom attention would well be paid. In certain sections, the advice, however true, can tend toward the banal, e.g. “Remember that ‘better’ and ‘more’ are not always synonymous” and “If it were easy, anyone could do it.” The story is most effective when the author draws short vignettes of distinctly pungent moments in his life as a father. These snippets of family biography are also rich in context, allowing Smith to fully evoke a range of missteps and imperfections that highlight just how far he’s come. Memorable among them, the tale of how he sunk a boat he borrowed from his father-in-law in three feet of water and the time he traumatized his 4-year-old son by getting too much into the spirit of Halloween. Rarely will a story suffer from over-thinking, though the repeated use of the bathroom sink as personal-relationship metaphor comes to mind. But Smith, for the most part, keeps the proceedings trim and square to the storytelling wind, as in recalling the wicked bite of his daughter’s car accident or the night she snuck out with her boyfriend and Smith's veins began “filling with the icy calm of a father with a plan.”
Smith’s words may qualify for that rarest of family treasures: the true heirloom.