The author of Friday Night Lights (1990) chronicles a cross-country road trip he shared with his 24-year-old brain-damaged son Zach.
In addition to probing his son's inner life, Vanity Fair and Daily Beast contributor Bissinger (Three Nights in August, 2005, etc.) attempts to re-create the pleasure he took in being on the road with his own father. The author explains that Zach has the comprehension skills of a 9-year-old because of brain damage suffered at the time of his premature birth, three minutes later than his twin brother Gerry. Yet while Zach's mental processes are slow, he has a phenomenal memory, complete recall of past events, friends with whom he corresponds by e-mail and a close relationship with Gerry. Because of his limited mental capacities, Zach works as a supermarket bagger: “He has been doing the same job for five years, and he will do the same job for the rest of his life,” writes the author. “My son's professional destiny is paper or plastic.” Bissinger laments what he believes to be his son’s impoverished mental life in ways that sometimes seem unduly condescending—e.g., expressing disappointment that he prefers swimming or sitting by the hotel pool to gambling at the tables in Las Vegas, one of the stops on their trip. The author describes an exciting bungee jump that he shared with his son, and meetings with friends and relatives they visit on the way to Los Angeles, but much of the book is devoted to flashbacks about incidents in his own life, his failures and disappointments as well as the pains and pleasures of fatherhood. Surprisingly, while he had hoped to help his son expand his mental horizons, the author was the one who gained valuable insights, one of which was the realization that his son does indeed have a rich inner life.
An intriguing memoir that suffers from confusing narrative lapses, such as contradictory accounts of Zach's work history.