A Father’s Words (Magill Book Reviews)
Cyrus Riemer senses the bittersweet effect of time upon his family. In his effort to balance the joys of maturation with the sadness accompanying change, Cyrus learns to respect the “logic of feeling” above the logic of logic.
Cyrus’ parents die within months of each other, bequeathing him a surprising sense of orphanhood. Grateful for the familial bonds they wrapped about him, Cyrus simultaneously fears that their dubious style of parenting lingers in him.
The lives of four grown children keep Cyrus in constant anxiety. How can he serve their disparate needs? Can he help Jenny overcome a fear of motherhood? Will bachelor Ben pick the right girl to marry? What reassurance can he offer Livy’s femininity as she undergoes basic training as an FBI agent? Is there a chance that, unassisted, Jack will overcome years of failed relationships and careers?
Answers are clearer to Cyrus when the questions are somebody else’s. His own life has its share of puzzles. The departure of Agnes, his former wife, for Africa puts the burden of maintaining family ties on Cyrus’ shoulders. Anxious to provide for his offspring’s financial security, Cyrus opens his staid science newsletter to sexy personal ads and risks his inheritance in stock speculation.
Cyrus is also involved with Emma, a woman half his age. He refuses to marry her, hoping to stifle the start of a new family. When biology defeats psychology, and Emma becomes...
(The entire section is 293 words.)
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A Father's Words (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
A Father’s Words, Richard Stern’s seventh novel, has the same qualities that made his previous six critical successes: believable and humane characters, literate prose, and a fresh interpretation of a conventional story. In this novel, the refreshed convention is the tale of a son living out, up to, or short of his father’s expectations. Usually the son is the dynamic figure in such a novel; his character is in flux and formation while the father is fixed. As the son decides whether to imitate, surpass, or rebel against the model of the parent, the father remains unchanging in his social and psychological identity. The father may be an admirable hero, a relentless tyrant, or a lovable eccentric, but he is fixed.
Stern’s distinctive touch is to make the father as much a character in the process of development as his children. Cy Riemer may be fifty-five years old, may have worked at the same editing job for thirty years, and may have spent his entire adult life in Chicago, but he is still maturing intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically. The key to Cy’s character is his realization that fatherhood is not a plateau but an upward slope. His four children are in their twenties or thirties, but Cy is not finished fathering them. At this age, other men may be content with being the lighthouse that signals a haven to the...
(The entire section is 2148 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Best Sellers. XLVI, July, 1986, p. 130.
Booklist. LXXXII, April 1, 1986, p. 1099.
Chicago. XXXV, August, 1986, p. 80B.
Kirkus Reviews. LIV, February 15, 1986, p. 246.
Library Journal. CXI, April 15, 1986, p. 97.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 4, 1986, p. 1.
The New York Times Book Review. XCI, June 15, 1986, p. 15.
Newsweek. CVII, March 24, 1986, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIX, February 21, 1986, p. 156.
Washington Post. May 9, 1986, p. D6.
(The entire section is 54 words.)