Debut memoirist Morrisey traces her late father’s long road to redemption.
An enthusiastic cook, a talented furniture maker, a passionate musician: the author’s father could be all these things when he wasn’t drinking, cheating, gambling, or violently lashing out against his wife and two daughters, she says. He was afflicted with what Morrisey calls the “Nichols plague”: alcoholism. She writes that he once chased her mother with a knife and that his temper and addictions loomed large over her own life. She remembers her 6-year-old self leaping between her arguing parents when her drunken father aimed a loaded shotgun at her mother. In addition to his heavy drinking, she says, her dad was often irresponsible with money (buying ponies for his daughters, for example, which the family would then have to sell) and cruel in his bids for attention (falsely telling his children that he had contracted AIDS). Morrisey writes that her struggles with her father continued well into her adulthood, as he grew dependent on his eldest daughter to pay his rent and repeatedly bail him out of jail. “I longed so much for a father I could lean on,” she writes, “not the other way around.” Yet in his final moments on Dec. 22, 2013, she says, he repented and committed himself to Christ. Morrisey emphasizes the Christian message in her father’s story; the book, she contends, is about “God’s amazing grace,” granted not only to her and her father, but “to all of us.” Such proselytizing might alienate some readers and bore others; long after her father’s narrative concludes, Morrisey continues a litany of biblical quotations and descriptions of her writing process that shed no new light on her experiences. However, her commitment to her parent, no matter how much violence and manipulation came her way, is an inspiring testament to family and mercy. Most remarkable is how she maintained a sense of humor (“We always said Daddy had champagne taste and a beer pocketbook”) in the face of so many hardships.
A moving, if occasionally preachy, account of forgiving a flawed parent.