Nearly four decades after the fact, Wall Street Journal copy editor McKee (The Call of the Game, 1987) tries to come to terms with his father’s death and his own mortality.
On September 30, 1969, the 16-year-old author watched his 50-year-old father die suddenly of a heart attack. More than 35 years later, McKee discovered that he too had a less-than-healthy heart and became obsessed with learning everything he could about cardiac disease. Part of his journey involved resurrecting a piece he’d written in college about his father’s death and expanding it into a book. The resultant memoir, which features reminiscences of high-school days, stories about his love of sports and a multitude of information about heart disease, was clearly cathartic and therapeutic for the author, so that readers can’t help but root for him to make it through the story both wiser and healthier. In substantial portions of the text, McKee takes a journalistic approach, offering specific details (dates, addresses, heart disease-related statistics, etc.) in such a smooth manner that the numbers seem to be a natural part of the narrative. There are also plenty of weepy moments, which don’t hurt the narrative since the book would have suffered had he kept more distance. The nonlinear structure allows for the author to jump from topic to topic, including a section of people describing their heart attacks, in-depth descriptions of professional football games past and other loosely related material. Those who suffer from heart disease will undoubtedly find solace in the fact that they’re far from alone. However, this earnest endeavor doesn’t have quite the literary resonance one might have hoped.
A rambling homage to love, perseverance and the pursuit of longevity: touching but a bit treacly.