A Southern California PBS journalist explores her relationship with her disturbed, likely schizophrenic father.
Things went south in her father’s life, Guerrero writes in this debut memoir, when a half sister edged him out of a managerial job in the family meat business. But his newfound addiction to hiding with an early-generation computer wasn’t the first odd thing he’d done; as Guerrero relates, he’d also tapped her mother’s phone in an act of jealousy—but also a fairly sophisticated bit of technological hacking. A mad genius and wild thinker, he got steadily worse: “The rare times Papi emerged from his bedroom, he sat on our living room leather couch, burping, staring at the turned-off television.” Then came the self-medication and the disappearances south of the border in episodes that, as Guerrero recounts them, had an alarming oddness—e.g., he wrapped his headrest in aluminum foil to keep from being zapped by unusual rays, then ran into an army checkpoint that, thankfully, failed to remark on the drugs and open bottles scattered throughout the cab. Investigating her father’s madness and charting his travels, Guerrero became a little unsettled herself: “Life is an accident,” she writes. “Any encounter with meaning is a delusion.” Her path also included some of that self-medication and plenty of that decenteredness. Guerrero relates all of this effectively, though there’s a grim repetitiveness to some of the madness. Readers may take issue with some of her suspensions of disbelief. In the end, she seems to think that it’s entirely possible her father had shamanic powers and that a line of sorcery extended throughout her family in Mexico, which lands us in Carlos Castañeda territory as mediated by a few hits of ecstasy.
With a little suspension of disbelief on his or her own part, even the hardest-nosed reader will find Guerrero’s decidedly centrifugal memoir fascinating.