A father’s secret past roils his son’s world.
After his father’s death, Boast (Power Ballads, 2011) made two shocking discoveries: The man who had lived so frugally that his sons dressed in thrift-store clothing left him a large inheritance, and his father had been married before. In his mid-20s, the author learned that he had two half brothers. Since they could make a claim against their father’s estate, Boast needed to track them down and, his lawyer advised, work out a financial settlement to avoid going to court. Still living in the family’s native England, Boast’s half-siblings, Arthur and Harry, welcomed him warmly. Arthur, a gay, affluent art gallery owner in Brighton, was living with his partner; Harry, a BMW employee, had two children who were delighted with their new uncle. Boast, however, remained tense and suspicious, second-guessing everything he said and wondering if connecting with them had been a mistake. His self-absorption and bitterness make him a less-than-sympathetic narrator. When he returned to America, he was reluctant to talk about his family, avoiding questions like, “Where do your folks live? What do they do? Sisters, brothers?” Determined “not to be seen as damaged goods,” he affected “a studied, almost icy reserve.” Although they knew their father abandoned them, settled in America and had a new family, Arthur and Harry remained emotionally open. Boast wondered, though, if their friendship was merely a ploy to take his inheritance. “I’d discovered I not only wanted the money,” he writes, “but could hardly stand to give any of it away.” When he did make an offer to the men, however, they readily agreed. In this emotionally raw memoir, Boast reveals his hard struggle to redefine for himself the meaning of family.
Intermittently engaging, but the author never deals with an essential question: What is an adult’s—including a parent’s—right to privacy?