LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER: How a Father Shapes the Woman His Daughter Becomes by Suzanne Fields
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LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER: How a Father Shapes the Woman His Daughter Becomes

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Reasonable, well-founded observations on the father-daughter relationship at each stage of life--with an animating, sometimes penetrating, personal strain and a bias in favor of fatherly (not motherly) fathers. ""How can Suzanne write a book about our relationship,"" said Fields' father to her mother, ""when it was you who were always with her?"" That is part of Fields' point: because fathers are Big Deals to their daughters--often more qualified in their love, the protector rather than the comforter, the essential male affirmation of attractiveness--the relationship tends to be less open, and throughout life both inescapable and unfulfilled. ""Daddy hides. . . . Most of all, he hides behind his fear of intimacy."" Fields reviews Freud/an, post-Freudian, and sociological views of the father-daughter bond; from interviews as well as the literature, she recounts the effects of a father's early death or defection (interpretable as rejection, to be repeated by other men); advancing into early childhood, she notes the need for a comfortable severance of ""the first childish 'love affair'"" (lest a family triangle, or incest, develop); if a growing girl is overpressured to gain paternal approval, says Fields, (also succumbing to a weakness for alliteration), the result may be perfectionism, procrastination, or clinging to the pretense of an ideal Daddy. But it's in working in her own story, on the threshold of adolescence, that Fields scores most tellingly. Her father, it seems, was a feisty young immigrant Jew, good at baseball and great with people, who made it big as a bookmaker. ""Slowly, almost imperceptibly, as I grew older, Bo and I came to share an unspoken pact to guard and atone for this family secret. . . . My role was to burnish the family name with grades, goals, and goodness."" But when she was 13, he gave it up--because, he told her years later: ""You were becoming a woman, and I didn't think it was fitting for my little girl's father to be in 'the life' or even close to it. . . . I wasn't worried about [her brother] Stanley--learning to take care of himself is what becoming a man is all about. But I owed you something special."" In the book's second half, Fields deals in detail with adolescence--the girl's sexual power, the father's uncomprehending resentments (aggravated by his own midlife status and the sexual revolution)--and then, apropos of her own marriage, with the problem of ceasing to be ""Bo Bregman's daughter."" Later, she confronts Daddy's decline in old age; lastly, she comes out for the value of fathers being different--which her book as a whole has been demonstrating. A sensitive airing of a tricky subject that could open doors for grown women and their fathers (and should--why not?--make Bo Bregman proud).

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1983
Publisher: Little, Brown