Book Review: The Council Of Dads

The Council Of Dads:  My Daughters, My Illness, And The Men Who Could Be Me, by Bruce Feiler

Of all of the books I have read by this author, this is the first that I can give an unreserved recommendation to.  The reason for that is instead of talking about areas where the author has marginal qualifications at best and a clear ideological ax to grind, in this book the author talks about his own health, a crisis involving a rare type of cancer, and his concern for the well-being of his daughters in case he should die while they are young.  As concern for fatherless children is something I share, this book definitely was relatable to me [1].  Any loving father, or someone who could conceivably see themselves as one, who is reflecting on mortality and seeking to help children overcome the absence of their father in their lives, is likely to get a great deal out of this book.  This is a large potential audience, and it makes for probably about the most sentimental book written by a man for a male audience that I can imagine reading at least.  This will not be to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly has a strong appeal for me.

The almost 250 pages of this book are divided into 24 short chapters that deal with the author in a deeply personal way.  Seven of the chapters are chronicles of the lost year of the author’s life when he struggled with a leg injury that prompted aggressive treatment of a cancer that had metastasized from the author’s femur into his bloodstream.  In these chapters, and the rest of the book, the author is pretty unsparing and brutally honest about his own feelings and concerns and the context of his troubled and complicated family background.  The author also spends a great deal of time talking about his council of dads, a group of people with varied lives and backgrounds themselves that are able to share different parts of his life with his daughters as a way of giving his girls a context of his life and an appreciation of who he is in case they are unable to learn it through personal observation.  As someone with particularly gloomy and melancholy thoughts, the way the author prepared for his potential demise was definitely something I found congenial, a way of acknowledging the potential of death and seeking to make the best of it rather than denying it.

There is a certain type of audience this book is aimed at.  If you are the sort of guy who has children and has at least some concern that you may die before they are fully grown, and if you are the sort of guy who is, in modern parlance, “in touch with your feelings,” this is likely to be a very worthwhile book.  As the account of a man who was told that he had a disease that may be fatal and decided both to fight the disease with no holds barred while also making preparations for making sure that his two young daughters, this book is a very powerful work that demonstrates the way that lives are haunted by what came before, but that even while being haunted that people can make the best of the existence they live, even where conditions are less than ideal.  As a man with a lifetime of experience wrestling with God and with the conditions of my existence, I found this book to represent the approach of someone who was not so far from me in terms of his heart after all, however different our belief systems.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: The Council Of Dads

  1. Pingback: Book Review: When Parenting Isn’t Perfect | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Cancer, Faith, And Unexpected Joy | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: A Cancer In The Family | Edge Induced Cohesion

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