Title: The Council of Dads
Subtitle: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me
Author: Bruce Feiler
Website of Author: http://brucefeiler.com/
Website of Publisher: http://www.harpercollins.com/
Publication date: 2010
ISBN -13: 978-0-06-177876-6
Length: 240 pages
Reviewer: Clayton Bye
Bruce Feiler is a successful writer who found himself in a situation we all hope to avoid: he became host to a particularly serious form of cancer that was eating away his left femur and thigh. Particularly saddening was the reality that if Feiler died from his cancer, he would be leaving behind a wife and 3 year-old twin daughters. Figuring that his wife, a strong and intelligent woman, would be able to rebuild her life, his thoughts turned to the girls. How would they ever get to know who he had been. His solution borders on brilliant.
Feiler decided to approach 6 men with whom he had strong relationships during different times of his life. He asked each of them to commit to being one aspect of who he was, to be his voice at certain times in his daughter’s lives. The group, as a whole, was to give his daughters a reasonable way to experience the kind of dad Feiler would have been.
Not only did Bruce Feiler’s idea strike a chord with his friends, it took on a life of its own. The 6 men decided to create a real council, to get to know each other and work together, rather than independently. I know this because Mr. Feiler wrote a book about creating the council and the year he lost to cancer. The author is obviously moved by the response of his friends, and even though he survives the cancer, one is left with the certainty that this group of men have formed something that will be rich, wonderful and life-long.
The letters or anecdotes about his life, the grueling chemotherapy, surgery, follow-up chemo and physiotherapy (which are also included in the book) are quietly honest and are filled with comments he, as a person and a dad, recorded regarding what he was learning and how the disease was shaping the lives of his family.
One reviewer felt uncomfortable or didn’t like the ideas being presented in The Council of Dads, referring to the council as gimmicky. The same reviewer calls it “a relatively thoughtful book that occasionally borders on the maudlin and sappy.” I’d like to disagree.
First, the book reads flawlessly; the reader won’t even know he or she is in the hands of a true professional. Second, if bringing the reader into his life or the story of his life is done as effortlessly as putting an arm around the shoulder of an old friend, then Feiler has written more than just a thoughtful book: he’s written an emotionally striking treatise. And finally, the author’s willingness and ability to bring to life the complex but often-times grounding feelings and experiences of a very sick man trying to retain a meaningful relationship with his youngsters is an effort I applaud. Having suffered for many years with serious disease that has without any doubt impacted my relationship with my children and my wife, I find myself wishing I had been in possession of a book like this at least 5 years ago.
Bruce Feiler appears to be a man of action (or, as he would prefer, a man of adventure). So, it’s not surprising The Council of Dads offers hands-on examples of building relationships of all kinds, shows some simple but powerful ways to deal with life threatening issues and, most of all, quietly offers to share life events as personal and as close-up as it gets.
I think any family would be better armed for life with Bruce Feiler’s The Council of Dads on a bookshelf in their home.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye
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