I once had a friend tell me about a Hallmark Christmas movie that made her cry. Yes, that is the point of Hallmark movies in general and their Christmas movies in particular. But these weren’t tears of joy or pseudo sadness, they were real pain. The movie told the story of a family who’s father had died and then through some Christmas magic the main character gets their dad back. The only problem was that my friend had actually lost her father and being an adult, knew that her father wasn’t going to come back from the dead.
That unsettling feeling is the premise and guiding force for the novel, “Raising the Dad” by Tom Matthews. A son must grapple with the knowledge that a father he’d lost to a stroke 30 years prior wasn’t actually dead yet is still “lost to a stroke.” He must do so even while navigating his own complicated marriage, troubled older brother, and fast fading mother.
Matthews manages to write this complex story in a manner that doesn’t feel convoluted and keeps the reader engaged throughout. His style of moving from present day to stories from the past flow easily from one to another. Each character is developed with enough breadth to maintain an investment in seeing the whole family through the process.