This is Parenthood — and Not Just the Charming, Photogenic Parts

Welcome to a new galaxy of worries, but also a world of discoveries: The boy loves “Star Wars” and swimming. The parents finally have mor...

Welcome to a new galaxy of worries, but also a world of discoveries: The boy loves “Star Wars” and swimming. The parents finally have more time for each other and for their careers. The father volunteers as a patient escort at an abortion clinic, where he has a chance to reflect on the decision that preceded his son’s birth. How often do we read about abortion from a man’s perspective? Never. And, refreshingly, the narrator doesn’t make this one about himself. He’s just a thoughtful guy, as the best fathers tend to be.

As he’s pondering weighty questions, the narrator moves swiftly through the stages of his son’s development. There’s the Age of Dinosaurs, then Disney, followed by Harry Potter, tricks (“magic kits, yo-yos, juggling sets”), superheroes, speed (scooters, skateboards), games, time travel. At each turn, the parents tell themselves they should get their son tested for autism, or what they call “the A-word.” Do they? Don’t they?

The answers to these questions are almost, but not quite, beside the point. The family does not live happily ever after. Instead, they find their footing in ritual and routine, in peaceful and predictable exhaustion, in the hardiest kind of love. Davies describes how, at the end of a long day, the mother or father will stumble downstairs, announcing wearily, “‘And that concludes today’s parenting.’ Until the next day, and the next and the next. As if it were a curse and not a blessing. As if it really were forever.”

  • What does Davies mean when he says the “abiding fear” was “the thing itself all along,” stretching out “before him, forever, like a sentence”?

  • Our narrator tells his writing class, “All fiction is appropriation.” Do you agree or disagree? How is his statement relevant to this book?

  • Even though this is a warm, funny book, shame is a major theme. How does Davies strike a balance between humor and self-doubt?

“A Life’s Work,” by Rachel Cusk. From mind-numbing tedium to earth-moving adoration, this memoir of new motherhood hits the same poles Davies addresses in his novel. Warning: “A Life’s Work” is not a good book to give at a baby shower. Wrap it up along with a baby’s first-birthday gift and new parents will thank you.

“An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination,” by Elizabeth McCracken. “The author applies honesty, wisdom and even wit to a painful event,” our reviewer wrote of this incredibly beautiful memoir of having a stillborn baby. McCracken writes, “I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on, but death goes on, too, that a person who is dead is a long, long story.”

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Newsrust: This is Parenthood — and Not Just the Charming, Photogenic Parts
This is Parenthood — and Not Just the Charming, Photogenic Parts
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