The swamplands of southern Michigan receive a surprise visit from a blogging Manhattan journalist and his feisty elderly father.
Early on, Sellers (Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, 2007) admits to a distinct abhorrence for “unnecessarily daunting” outdoor activities. Leaving the pleasurable confines of his home meant exposing himself to treacherous environs teeming with bugs, the horror of sharks and quicksand and “the constant menace of ickiness.” Also low on his to-do list was spending time with his quirky, estranged father Mark, a stuttering, antisocial former Lutheran pastor turned herpetologist who drove his long-suffering wife to divorce him after 19 years). In a farfetched effort to somehow rekindle a father-son bond, Sellers voluntarily accompanied his 70-year-old dad on his yearly three-day excursion to the Michigan swamps  in search of the “endangered copperbelly water snake.” It would be the longest amount of time they’d spent together in well over two decades, he confesses. The hundred-mile road trip into the quagmire is surprisingly rife with honest revelations for both the author, who bemoans his father’s frail appearance yet respects his “consuming passion,” and Mark, who emotionally argues the negative perceptions of snakes in popular culture and the escalating “suburbanization” of land he’d once surveyed. After their initial trip was cut short, Sellers, though recognizing his father’s physical limitations, embarked on a second swamp voyage—only this time much better prepared (less kvetching!) and at peace with his co-pilot. As the author relates memories of a bittersweet childhood, their swamp escapades reveal a deeper meaning. Throughout, Sellers tests the bounds of the relationship with honest attempts at harmonizing with a father who’d become a stranger. With the swamp trips painstakingly accomplished and this heartfelt, Hollywood-ready narrative written, the author would do well to simply hug his father and stay put indoors.
An unconventional, funny and touching family adventure.