Year 3 / Book 45: Priestdaddy


45) Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

This is a difficult book to categorise or introduce; I guess it’s best described as a memoir, but it’s also at points poetic, often a true picture of parts of America, and has much to say beyond the depiction of a family living in the shadow of a mercurial father figure (the Priestdaddy of the title). At other times, it reads more like a comic novel: Lockwood has a nice line in one-line descriptions with a side of cutting judgement.

Lockwood’s father is indeed a priest, with a penchant for walking round in his underwear, playing the guitar badly, and throwing out aphoristic non-sequiturs like a hunter shooting into a forest wildly in the hope of hitting a duck (spoiler – he also believes in hunting). Lockwood herself is married to a guy called Jason and for reasons to tortuous to go into here, they have to move back to the family home with her mum and dad. Cue randomness and periods of hilarity.

There’s much to like here: there’s a fabulous description of America early on which had me laughing out loud. Her Dad is exceptionally larger than life and a natural comic character. And there are points of poignancy that are incredibly moving – not least around a rape episode that provides the basis for a poem by the author, and which her family don’t quite know how to react to.

I bought this because it was so often recommended in last year’s ‘book of the year’ lists, and it’s fair to say I wouldn’t have otherwise, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not without fault: I would say it’s a bit overlong (the third quarter of the book dragged for me), and the tighter grip on structure from the earlier chapters dissolves a bit late on, and you lose your bearings as a reader slightly (which may be partly deliberate). But it’s worth the ride for the characters, the humour and the quality of the writing alone.

Score: 7/10

PS – should add, I bought this for someone else and they hated it – found it tricksy, self-involved and annoying…and gave it 2/10. For balance!

BUY IT NOW: Priestdaddy: A Memoir

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