Father Figures: Three Wise Men Who Changed a Life

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9780060511920: Father Figures: Three Wise Men Who Changed a Life

The remarkable account of a boy's secret plan to find and emulate three men, a trio of hand-picked father figures, after his own father dies.

Kevin Sweeney was three years old when his father died, and only vaguely aware of his family's circumstances. His mother, thirty-four and nearly penniless, would not speak of the loss to her six children, and they, mindful of her fragility, hid their grief. But five years later, Sweeney quietly selected three men from his community to be his role models. Seized by the notion that he would be a father one day, he carefully planned his education.

None of Sweeney's father figures knew of their surrogacy, even though Sweeney was often on the periphery of their lives. He basked in the attention they occasionally lavished on him at parties or basketball games. Haunted by his own anger, guilt, jealousy, and sadness, Sweeney found relief and inspiration in the men, and in the tight-knit suburb where his family lived. He enjoyed long days of exhilarating normalcy -- learning to hit curveballs, roving on Sting-Ray bikes, and concocting explosives with neighborhood compatriots.

Kevin Sweeney's memoir recalls a childhood of private longing in a community of almost otherworldly simplicity, a place where every neighborhood girl received a curbside ovation on her way to the prom. It is the story of a boy and the three men he wanted to be like when he grew up, men who would pull him, a son at last, to the safety of young adulthood. And it is a story of resiliency, with lessons for all of us about the needs of children, the gift of community, and the nature of fatherhood.

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About the Author:

Kevin Sweeney has held senior positions in the Clinton Administration, served as press secretary to Senator Gary Hart, and worked as an aide in both houses of Congress. He was an executive with Patagonia and now works as a consultant in the areas of environmental protection and human rights. His essays on politics and social topics have been featured on Salon.com and in numerous major newspapers, and he has appeared on Nightline, NewsHour, and Larry King. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Sweeney lives with his family in Northern California.

From Publishers Weekly:

When environmental consultant Sweeney, who was three when his father died of heart failure, turned eight, he chose three men who were friends of his family to serve as stand-ins. At the time, the men didn't know the role Sweeney had picked for them, but they wound up teaching him invaluable lessons over the course of his life. Part memoir, part tribute and part guide for those who have lost a parent, this book (which is based on a Salon.com article Sweeney wrote shortly after September 11) is a thoughtful, touching and realistic look at how children cope with loss. "I did not feel fatherless," Sweeney writes, "not exactly, even though my mother never remarried. I had a strategy for coping. I was a kid with a plan." In spare, unadorned prose studded with touching details, Sweeney relates what it was like to lean on, and learn from, the men around him as he charted his own path to adulthood. The book is a testament of children's strength and resilience in the face of loss.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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