Review–Not My Father’s Son

Not My Father’s Son is a memoir by Alan Cummings (of Good WivesMasterpiece Mystery, Brodway, and about a thousand other things). It’s not a typical memoir, though, focusing on two things–his childhood with a physically and emotionally abusive, probably mentally ill father and his appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? a British genealogy show which traced his maternal grandfather–and how those two things intertwined.

The parts centered in Cummings’ childhood are brutal and sadistic, so if you grew up in that sort of environment, this book might give you uncomfortable flashbacks. If you didn’t experience that, this book is still extremely uncomfortable, even though Cummings doesn’t dwell on the details, only highlights specific incidents. While reading, I was simultaneously horrified, incensed and saddened. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The part that covers Cummings’ appearance on Who Do… is less triggering, although it was also sometimes sad. However, both sections (Cummings bounces between the past and present to highlight the similarities of the two sections) contain mysteries that are slowly unraveled as the book continues and as Cummings discovers more about his family and himself.

There are nods to more conventional memoirs (education, a bit about Cummings’ filmography and stage roles, discussion of his two marriages), but most of the text is tightly tied to the main concept.

If you want a powerful and moving book about overcoming abuse and achieving despite (because of?) it, I would definitely recommend this one.

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