The Single Dad Detour: Directions For Fathering After Divorce, by Tez Brooks
[Note: I am not married, planning marriage, or planning divorce at present, nor do I have any kids. This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
Although this book has no direct personal relevance for me, at least not given its subject matter, it contains a great deal that is of interest to any man who wishes to read a clarion call to Christian manhood in difficult situations. This book manages the tricky task of combining personal material (in a way that is designed to appeal to men, but also to broaden the interest of men by encouraging emotional honesty and the building of community and relationships rather than seeking to go it alone or focus merely on action). There are parts of this book that are likely to make one laugh (or cry), such as the comparison of various kinds of fathers to different types of automobiles, ranging from materialistic jeeps and Hummers and convertibles to middle-of-the-road sedans. There are parts of this book that will make readers wince, like hearing a man talk about the insecurity a father faces in having another man charm his daughter, or the way the book says it is a bad thing for someone to kiss the head of a child of a single parent until such time as there are plans for marriage.
In many ways, this book confirms a pattern I have long seen when it comes to books. Even though this is a book written to encourage men suffering as single parents (either custodial or non-custodial), and contains a great deal of unpleasant discussions (including advice on where to transfer children to the estranged mother, the absolute necessity of avoiding breakup/makeup sex or any kind of sexual impurity whatsoever, or advice on how to best appeal to judges given the widespread discrimination against men in the legal system regarding family issues), it is a book written by an author who was single for seven years after his wife left him for a younger man, and its embarrassingly honest personal details come with the knowledge on the part of the reader that there was a successful remarriage with two more beautiful kids and a generally happy relationship in the blended family. This book portrays an optimistic outcome, but by no means a panacea. It is a realistic joy that includes bittersweet and genuine feeling but does not sink into despair.
In terms of organization, the book is masterful, constructing a narrative that manages to steer between the extremes of advocating laziness and seeking salvation in parenting by works. It focuses on relationships, and provides concrete discussion (including reflection questions) and recommends journaling as a way of expressing oneself privately, since public self-expression of feelings can have awkward and uncomfortable repercussions for men. It is organized into eighteen chapters (plus introductory material and an epilogue featuring advice from other single dads) divided into three parts, the first dealing with education (basics about physical/emotional/spiritual/mental health, cooking, making right choices, recognizing warning signs, and the like), the second dealing with making changes (dealing with roles, selfishness, changes to family traditions after divorce, the empty nest, dating, and remarriage), and a shorter third section on the big picture of parenting as missionary work and keeping a relationship with God, the children, and the ex. It is a shame that there are some dated pop culture references (to “What Does The Fox Say,” for one) but for the most part, this is a book that ought to encourage many men to stand up and avoid being libeled and slandered as deadbeat dads, in an area where few people seek to present the man’s side of recovering from a divorce. The timely biblical and cultural advice is well-needed, even if not always easy to hear or to agree with.