In Bell’s debut memoir, a late-blooming dad humorously discusses the angst, joys and mysteries of fatherhood.
Bell surmises that his youngsters will inevitably conclude that he behaved in wild, irrational ways while raising them, but it’s conjecture often belied by the scenarios he recounts. His speculation is probably linked to the excessive self-examination to which many parents are prone. In fact, his accounts of hospital childbirth, spousal budget conversations and diaper changing seem normal, even mundane, as does his fix for the family’s pet-ownership dilemma: “adopting” backyard squirrels or grasshoppers. The writing is overlaid with a tone of sarcasm, particularly during descriptions of PTA meetings. Furthermore, the author’s creative wordplay goes beyond the usual cute chapter titles. The wit here is found in many observational comparisons, such as the suggestion that industrial copy machines can’t hold a candle to a baby’s fascination with peek-a-boo’s repetition. The book’s best moments come when sharp language, sarcasm and creativity combine, as when Bell tweaks a preschool game’s rules to gain more sleep because such inventions are “incorruptible, unverifiable and non-negotiable.” Transferring bachelor skills to fatherhood is an amusing enough pursuit, although even more compelling is the understated purpose behind Bell’s writing: It’s a tool to help him deal with his own childhood issues. The intelligence of the writing suggests that Bell is aware of the uncouthness in focusing on “subject matter [that] is nauseatingly droll coming from anyone except yourself.” Yet the book’s compactness and ample wit will likely find traction with some parents and converted bachelors.
Sometimes mundane but often creative and comical.