I met Greg Olear at BEA 2011. I’m disclosing that right off the bat. Now, normally that wouldn’t make much of a difference – but I really liked Greg (and his wife). We bonded over the Colbert Report, which for me is the equivalent of our having survived a 19th century British prep school together.
So, based on the above, it seemed best to delay posting by a couple months just to make sure I was reviewing the book and not the author. Two months after reading here’s my final verdict.
It’s a great book. Father-Mucker is a Bloomsday style day-in-the-life novel told from the point of view of a suburban, stay at home dad who finds out that his wife might be cheating on him. *Inhale* It combines the quality of writing you expect from literary fiction with the heart of genre. It’s honest, snarky, a little raunchy and very sweet. In short, everything a book about the trials and tribulations of parenthood should be.
Olear lays down the facts within the first few pages:
Good fathers combat the Seven Deadly Sins with the Seven Cardinal Virtues: humility, charity, kindness, patience, temperance, prudence, and, oh yes, chastity. Good fathers emulate good fathers of another kind, priestly, offering blessing and balm, repressing carnal yearnings, sacrificing their own desires for the salvation of others.
That’s what good fathers do.
I strive to be a good father, but when your three-year-old daughter won’t stop kicking you, and your five-year-old son swats you with his fork when you try to take away his Lego catalog, and the two of them come to blows over matters of great import, such as who gets to play with the Us Weekly magazine insert they found on the mildewy floor near the toilet, this can be a challenging – nay, an impossible – duty to uphold.
Which calls to mind another axiom of my austere and lonely office:
Fatherhood is failure.
Josh Lansky, our hero, is a writer who hasn’t much time to write. His wife is away on business. He has a strong-willed daughter and an autistic son. In a day full of car rides, class trips, tantrums and play-dates he’s doing the best he can… despite the sleep deprivation, lack of adult companionship, no sex, proper nutrition and declining hygiene.
Parenthood, as Olear describes it, falls someplace in between a military campaign and Woodstock (before the warning about the purple acid). Strategy is everything. Madness and mayhem reign. So does love. Hilarity ensues. In the end Josh and the kids make it out just fine. Father-Mucker is a light, entertaining novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just the kind of book we all need a little bit more of.
Publisher: Harper, New York (2011)
ISBN: 978 0 06 205971 0