Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Father's Day by Simon Van Booy

Several years ago, I read Simon Van Booy's novel, The Illusion of Separateness. It was a profoundly moving novel of interconnected vignettes and I was anxious to see what Van Booy would do in a more traditional novel. He is still a beautiful writer but his newest novel, Father's Day, didn't quite have the same luminous feel that the previous one did. This novel is different in so many ways and while I loved the other one more, it was still a worthwhile reading experience.

Harvey is just six years old when her parents die in a car accident. The only family she has left to her is her Uncle Jason, a man she's never met, a man her mother never acknowledged, a man who her father spoke of rarely although protectively. Jason is not the sort of man you'd think of to raise an orphaned child. He is an ex-con, sent to prison for fighting and blinding another man. He is disabled, having lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, and unemployed, surviving by selling things online. He's building a custom motorcycle in his garage whenever he can find the money to buy parts. And he struggles with the demons of his easily provoked rage often. There's not really any space in his life for a niece he's never met. Yet Wanda, the social worker assigned to Harvey's case, sees beneath the obvious disqualifications to the very heart of him and is determined to place Harvey in his care.

The story alternates between the past and the present, starting with Harvey's life before the accident that left her orphaned and then flipping to present day Paris, where she has a wonderful creative job and is preparing for her father to come and visit her. She has discovered something she wants to confront him about. Her preparations and their visit together are interleaved with the story of her childhood and growing up years. There are also glimpses of the terrible childhood that Jason and her father lived as well. The reader watches as Jason learns to be a father, sees him determined to control his impulsive anger, to allow the caring portion of himself not destroyed by his own father's abuse to come to the fore in loving this child, and finally in cherishing her as a father does.  The flipping back and forth in time serves the story but can be awkward in execution, making for an uneven narrative tension. Jason's character is uneducated but his language drifts in and out of sounding that way, making it a bit inconsistent in voice.  And the ending is too tidy and predictable.  But the plain and rooted caring between this reluctant father and the daughter he inherits is touching and lovely and those who enjoy simple, unadorned stories of created families will appreciate this emotionally loaded and heart warming tale of family, unconditional love, and belonging.

For more information about Simon Van Booy, take a look at his website, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for prompting me to take this off my shelf and read it.


  1. I was shaky on this one, not sure if I was going to finish, but I think I'll endure. It's the unadorned part that's throwing me off!

  2. Father/daughters stories are special to me, since I have such a wonderful relationship with my own dad.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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