Not My Father's Son

Not My Father's Son

A Memoir

Book - 2014
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In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.
Publisher: New York : Dey Street, an imprint of William Morrow Publishers, ©2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062225061
0062225065
9780062225078
0062225073
Characteristics: 294 pages :,illustrations ;,22 cm

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PimaLib_ChristineR Aug 24, 2018

This book could easily have fallen into "my dad was an abusive git, please feel sorry for me." Yet it did not. There are several factors that saved this book.

First of all is that Cumming is as charming and witty with the written word as he appears to be on the stage and screen. Besides his life story, he has fun little asides, like talking the Eurovision Song Contest with Antonio Banderas, or this insight from a character he played in drag: "For yes, being a woman, even one with a penis and for the purposes of drama, really made me feel that women have been coerced into a way of presenting themselves that is basically a form of bondage. Their shoes, their skirts, even their nails seem designed to stop them from being able to escape whilst at the same time drawing attention to their sexual and secondary sexual characteristics."

Second is that the book feels like Cumming writing to himself: writing to try and understand his father, and the further he gets into the writing, the more clear it becomes that like so many things in life, there will be no answer. There is no explanation for or revelation about the meanings behind evil actions and Cumming comes to accept this.

Finally, his appearance on "Who Do You Think You Are?" is described in heartbreaking detail and the outcome of his search has such profound meaning for his brother and mother as well as himself.

Cumming is a master of stepping outside of himself to describe his actions and reactions, pulling the reader strongly into the emotional content while he himself is technical in his descriptions of pain, fear and shock. When speaking of his childhood he says, "Everything we liked or wanted or felt joy in had to be hidden or suppressed. I’m sad to say that this method works. If you don’t give as much credence or value to whatever it is that you love, it hurts less when it is inevitably taken from you."

I generally do not read biography or autobiography, but I can recommend this without reservation and with a box of tissues. And the ending is as satisfying as anything dreamt of in the world of fiction.

t
tbos805
Jun 21, 2018

Gripping reading. I was so surprised. Wow. Loved the "Then" and "Now" format which points to how events in our early years shape our futures. It made me think and feel that I could write a book myself! It is approximately an 8th grade reading level - but excellent nonetheless - and hopefully will therefore attract and reach the widest possible audience. It is an extremely uplifting and helpful book.

ArapahoeTiegan Jul 19, 2017

This book gave me so many feels. I ended up finishing it in less than 24 hours - I just couldn't put it down. What a beautiful story of Alan Cumming confronting his past and his family history at practically the same time and ultimately deciding to accept what was, be happy with the truth, and moving forward to live a happy life knowing that all his experiences made him the person he is - a person he is proud to be.

b
brooklynheart5
Aug 29, 2016

Loved this book. What a terrible childhood. So glad that he has truimphed and become a briliant actor/producer/ director/writer.

a
amary1978
Aug 10, 2016

Very deeply personal story in relation to his father (who wasn't such a nice fellow/father). The story moved quickly and related to his own personal family drama with his father and also what was going on with his search during the show Who Do You Think You Are. I was very shocked by the revelations about his father.

j
Janice21383
Aug 07, 2016

Reasonably well written (there is a good chance that this memoir was mostly written by the subject himself), and eloquent on Cumming's own feelings and history. Unfortunately the author does not go the extra mile and think deeply about the feelings and histories of his parents, or other people involved. He may be trying to preserve their privacy, but that horse is out of the barn. The tone is uneven -- Cummings stops everything to discuss the Eurovision Song contest -- but there is drama in this story, and even suspense*. I recommend the audio version, which provides more subtle shades of meaning. Cumming's voice flows like butterscotch. *SPOILERS: I half expected that both the Cumming brothers would turn out not to be related to their father, or some other shocking twist. However, this is only real life.

j
jannylegs
Jul 18, 2016

I love Alan Cumming and this book was a good read, but I wasn't blown away by it. It's mostly a rundown of his involvement in a TV show called Who Do You Think You Are, and his feelings about that mixed in with flashbacks to his childhood. That set-up felt oddly false, like this memoir had just been slapped together to accompany the show, or to use the info that was discovered there to get more bucks for the bang, so to speak.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

A very personal work from an exceptional actor.

k
kate4joy
Mar 01, 2016

My reading experience of this book is well expressed in the review by Library Journal (above). What I want to add is the humanity that is expressed in Alan's telling. There is a powerful and sweet unfolding of healing, forgiveness and growth to self-love . The clarity and quality of sharing a personal journey of inquiry is very well presented. I am grateful to him for writing it. Found it a page-turner and loved the reading of it, with gratitude for his persistence on a difficult path and generosity in sharing it.

p
Pansy
Dec 31, 2015

A quick and easy read, interesting enough.

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Sonjahv Aug 14, 2015

What had he actually done? He was just a bit strict and prone to losing his temper, wasn't he? He hit me sometimes, but everyone's dad hits them, don't they? He told me I was useless and worthless, but I have proved him wrong, haven't I? I was okay.

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kmin57
Jul 15, 2015

I have often thought that if Americans were more exposed to this wonder (Eurovision Song Contest) there would not only be a huge surge in their understanding of British wit and irony, but they would perhaps be able to appreciate without shame the value of a good old-fashioned tacky pop song.

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kmin57
Jul 15, 2015

An exploration of this well known actor's past and early family life. As he has a chance to find out more about his genealogy, he also comes to terms with his fractured relationship with a distant father. Brave, funny, fascinating. Really enjoyed it.

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