Simkovits recounts his struggle to come to terms with his father’s morally questionable financial dealings in this first memoir in a series.
The debut author grew up in Montreal and loved his larger-than-life father, Johnny—a gregarious and successful entrepreneur in the record player manufacturing industry. Johnny was born in Czechoslovakia, fought in four different armies during World War II, and escaped Soviet tyranny. Simkovits also portrays his father as a man of elastic ethical principle—a heavy-drinking philanderer who was involved in “deceitful tax-avoiding ways” that included concealing wealth in offshore bank accounts. In his younger days, the author was eager to win his father’s approval, so he adopted his spendthrift habits. But after Simkovits came to understand the emotional pain that his dad had inflicted upon his dutiful mother, he came to regret what felt like his own complicity. He captures this emotional situation in lucid prose: “I had tried to be a loyal and trusting biblical Isaac to my revered Abraham father. At some juncture, I started to feel as if I were being led up a mount for my sacrifice to a false money god.” After his father died, the author inherited his father’s “hidden hoard,” much of it illicitly shielded from taxation, and he felt that he had no choice but to reveal the shame he’d been harboring. Simkovits also chronicles his own childhood as well as Johnny’s difficult youth and later professional success. The author’s remembrance is impressively sensitive as he tells of his father’s financial skulduggery, and he unabashedly shares his admiration for him, as well. He realistically portrays his complex parent as a man of contradictions; for example, he describes his father as a “cold weather Catholic” who often golfed during warm Sundays instead of going to church but who also earnestly insisted that his sons be “good Catholics.” The author astutely presents his father’s justification for his financial “shenanigans”: “A lot of wealthy people do this. We should not be any different than the rest.” Simkovits’ recounting tends to meander a bit at times, but this never undermines the intelligent story that he tells.
A thoughtful consideration of the limits of familial loyalty.