After being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Feiler (America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, 2009, etc.) asked his closest male friends to provide guidance, wisdom and love to his children, should he not survive.
The author chronicles the daunting process of enduring a life-threatening condition, creating an amalgam of travelogue, family album, personal memoir and portrait of a marriage. With the same measured, down-to-earth voice that distinguishes his popular explorations of historical landmarks and religious figures, Feiler describes the men in his life who have shaped him, including his father, both grandfathers and the men he chose to fill his fatherly shoes in case his extensive surgery and chemotherapy treatments proved unsuccessful. By reverently marveling at the achievements, sorrows and credos of his male role models, the evolution of his deepest friendships and his wife's courage, the author looks beyond his own lifetime, putting the struggles of the present into a philosophically astute and humble context. Through regular letters to loved ones, he offers snapshots of his “Lost Year,” bluntly recounting the ravages of aggressive procedures, the impact of his weakened state on his daily life and the moments of joy, connection and grace he still finds within the anguish. His contemplative candor, fortitude and wry humor come through in the simplest of phrases: “No one aspires to be the person who handles this kind of situation well.” Addressing his daughters, the author writes about “the great paradox of parenting: Even as we come to feel we can’t live without you, our primary job is to prepare you to live without us. Our task, in a sense, is to make ourselves obsolete.”
Feiler tackles personal hardship with inquisitive and heartfelt eloquence.