Reading Recommendations · Fathers and Sons
These novels capture the complex relationships of fathers and sons—from admiration to rebellion, devotion to abandonment, and everything in between.
One by one, the men in blue-collar Maple Rock, near Detroit, are losing their jobs, and they’re skipping town, leaving their families behind. When his father goes, too, Michael has to grow up quickly, especially when he faces becoming a father himself. A poignant and realistic portrait of how the absence of a father changes a boy for life.
Willie Dunne, son of a staunchly pro-Empire Dublin policeman, volunteers for the British army when World War I is declared. Even after terrible battlefield experiences, he doesn’t question his father’s beliefs, until he is ordered to help quell the Easter Rising in his own town and faces painfully unanswerable questions of political and personal loyalty.
Jared, a pickpocket with an enthusiasm for film, has created an unusual but happy life in Greenwich Village with his teen son, Ben. But when Ben becomes the victim of a hate crime, they must flee their old life. With insight beyond his years, Ben narrates this story of personal discovery, arresting violence, and the difficulties of father-son devotion.
Trying to please his overbearing father and impress his rebellious older brother is a no-win situation for thirteen-year-old Jacob Green. To top things off, his parents are splitting up, and he has a major crush on the family babysitter. Jacob finds his way in spite of the family he loves in this well-rounded portrait of a young man coming into his own.
When three American students join a rally in east Berlin in 1961, their moment of rebellion turns dangerous, and they end up in custody of the East German Stasi. Two parents attempt to free them, but their pasts complicate matters. Place and time play a strong part in this suspenseful story of fathers and sons during a volatile moment in history.
Talcott Garland, son of a famous and controversial African-American judge, is puzzled by the strange “arrangements” his father left at his sudden death. Talcott must leave his own privileged world as a law professor to pursue mysterious-and dangerous-clues to his father’s past in this highly charged thriller.
It’s like father, like son in this story of rival thieves from the same family. Kevin grows up an apprentice to his father, Jerry, stealing cars and credit cards. Teen runaway Colette joins the two and becomes Jerry’s girlfriend, while Kevin also pines for her. Separated by a prison sentence for several years, the three reunite for one last adventure, and the result is a wild ride.
Corruption, conflict, and the remnants of colonialism deeply divide a father and son in the India of the 1970s and ’80s. Babu can’t understand the compromises his bureaucrat father has had to make as an honest man in a government rife with graft and riven by racial tensions. It takes many years before he learns how his father’s life was shaped by their country’s turbulent history.
This short and sweet tale follows ten-year-old Jim as he grows up in rural North Carolina during the 1930s. His father dies before Jim is born, and his mother carries that loss for years to come. Jim finds father figures in three uncles, whose enduring influence shows the power of a good family in the maturing of a young boy.
Oskar Schell is a precocious nine-year-old who is struggling, with all the powers of his inventive brain, to understand his father’s death on 9/11. He begins a feverish quest through New York City for the lock that matches a key his father left behind, sure that it will unlock the mystery. This dazzling, tragicomic novel of a grieving son is as original and imaginative as Oskar himself.
The complex emotional bonds of a Scottish family are explored through vignettes of three summers. Widowed father David travels to Greece in the first summer, but most of the story is told in the second section by his gay son Fenno, who lives in America and is preparing for a funeral. Unusual characters make for a compassionate, moving story of family and friendship.
Christopher, an autistic British teen, becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of who killed the neighbor’s dog, and in the process inadvertently discovers his father’s unforgivable secret. Reading between the lines of Christopher’s clever but literal narration, one finds a stunning story of a father/son relationship fraught with frustration, disappointment, and love.
Affluent Londoner Will Lightman discovers the dating potential of a single-parent group, so he invents a child of his own and joins. There he meets a boy named Marcus, who decides to bring Will into his mother’s life—and his own. Marcus is clueless about coolness but sees through Will’s hip pose, and the result is an entertaining tale of how a reluctant father figure and a precocious boy grow up.
Forty years of Afghan history furnish the backdrop to this engrossing story of fathers and sons, friendship, and betrayal between an upper class Pashtun family and their lower-caste Hazara servants. Guilt from a childhood incident in Afghanistan haunts Amir even as a grown man in California. Will a chance at redemption justify his troubled journey to manhood?
Though narrated by a father and daughter, the conflict in this compelling novel centers around the differing lives of fathers and sons. Bernard Boudreaux struggled out of poverty to respected academia, but his biracial son hates his compromises with white culture. The family legacy of violence and racism—Bernard’s own father was lynched—deeply affects the lives of both.
A quirk of his father’s will decrees that Joshua, a young British journalist living a dissolute life in India, must write a best-selling novel about his father. Josh chooses crime fiction, and his research involves helping a young female tourist from the Netherlands rip off a dangerous drug dealer. A high-spirited, blackly comic debut.
Knowing he will die before his seven-year-old son grows up, Reverend John Ames writes a long letter to the boy, telling him everything he would have if he had lived long enough. The hard-won wisdom, steadfast faith, and contented life of the last in a long line of ministers comes to rich, vibrant life in Robinson’s long awaited, absolutely splendid novel.
Bailey Kraft, son of a long line of watermen on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, expects to become his father’s partner on their crab boat when he turns eighteen. But his father wants Bailey to go to college. Tragedy intervenes, forcing Bailey to make difficult choices about his future in this classic coming-of-age novel set in beautifully evoked river country.
Georgie Finch is a suburban kid in 1976, when his father, Jerry, wins a contest to became the first citizen-astronaut. When Jerry gets lost on the moon, a national media vigil ensues. Only Georgie is still in contact with his missing father through eerie but reassuring telephone calls. Sher has written an appealingly surreal novel of innocence and the eroding American dream.
Edward Bloom’s tall tales and jokes are the only ways his son, William, knows his larger-than-life father. While Edward is dying, William struggles to have a serious conversation with him, but ends up spinning his own yarns to pay homage to this charming, flawed man. A poignant story adapted into an imaginative film of the same name by Tim Burton.
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