Wearing impresses again with her latest father-daughter memoir
If there were a literary prize offered for the year’s best book with the worst title, Alison Wearing’s tender memoir of her trip to Ireland with her aging father would be a front-runner to win.
Moments of Glad Grace, the unfortunately saccharine title that burdens Wearing ’s otherwise delightful book, suggests middlebrow piety or mild-mannered romantic comedy, or a lamentable confusion in the editing and publishing process.
Fortunately, the reader opens the book to find something altogether different and delightful. Here, as so often, persistence is rewarded. (The final draft of this lovely book was written at UBC’S Green College while Wearing was writer-in-residence there, and many Vancouver readers will celebrate the remarkable success of our one-time neighbour.)
The persistent reader will discover that Wearing — whose sprightly, charming and honest 2013 memoir of growing up with a gay dad garnered critical acclaim and several prize nominations — has done it again.
Returning to the rich vein of her complicated relationship with the father, who left her mother and the suburbs to pursue a more authentic life as an out gay man in Toronto when she was a teenager, this time Wearing takes the reader along as she and her father visit Dublin, ostensibly to pursue his interest in family history.
But while the research does happen, and prompts some incisive reflections on the Irish experience as England’s first and longest suffering colony, the real action in this well-crafted memoir lies elsewhere. It is to be found in the way the Irish trip leads Wearing to reflect on her more immediate family history, and on the impacts on her father and his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.
This is material that could easily descend into sentimentality, but Wearing resists each temptation to soften her material with unearned emotion or time-worn clichés.
She is admirably self-revealing and self critical, noting and mourning each of her own moral or practical failures, and she is just as unsparing in her depiction of her father in all his flawed and fabulous humanity.
This is a well-written book that celebrates love and maturity, wisdom and forgiveness, and the hardearned peace that occurs when you have the courage to pass though heartfelt honesty to the other side of tragedy, loss and sorrow. Highly recommended.