In McCain’s charming debut, he recounts the life of his father—Russell McCain, a small-town workingman who wrung pleasure out of a hard life.
McCain’s biography of his father is a testament to the human capacity to find happiness if you have the mindset to pursue it. Through recollections, letters, and the notes the author took while talking with his father during the last years of his life, McCain tells the story of a man who understood that life’s finest enjoyments come from family and friends. Russell was born in New Hampshire during the Depression. He conjured fun out of sharing his bedroom with his brothers, found the wringer washer in the kitchen a hoot, got stitches from accidents, played football like a demon, and even at his young age found segregation at the beach weird and rude. World War II came with all its misery—the blackouts and the rationing—but also with much-needed jobs. In New Britain, where the family lived, Russell was never at a loss for work—another blessing, he understood—but this book focuses on life outside work, drawing intimacy from the little details of country life, like fishing for bluegills and eels. McCain’s affection for his father is enormous on the page, and the sense of loss is immediate—“I deeply regret not knowing more about him. I’ve seen pictures of him in an Army uniform, dressed as a church choir boy...on a motorcycle.” But he knows more about him than many sons know about their fathers and learned about the importance of humility and family and being “a hard bargainer, and an honest competitor.”
Told with understated pride about a father who had an eye for the immediate, local color of everyday life.