In this surprisingly vulnerable collection, twenty-eight talented fathers explore the complex, enigmatic bond they have with their daughters. These endearing, often funny and sometimes heartbreaking stories have in common an overpowering sense of responsibility and a depth of affection that is unflinchingly tender. Through their shared experiences, they examine relationships fraught with challenges and struggles, but always filled with love. The gentle strength they bring to this important role in their daughters' lives will speak to families for generations to come.
What Would I Tell Her is a collection of 28 stories, edited by Andrea Richesin. What I Would Tell Her is a follow up to Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond.
Unfortunately the stories fell a little flat for me.
This is the how most anthologies and collections turn out. It’s usually hit and miss. I think my major problem was that most of the fathers are professional writers that come from an upscale, artistic background. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and in no way diminishes their love for their daughters but the writing came off as a little pretentious. One father burst into tears at almost everything his daughter does because he loves her so much. This felt more like a Lifetime special in book form. Again – there is nothing wrong with this but I was hoping to read something more relatable to the average dad who doesn’t connect to his daughter and is uncomfortable expressing his feelings and has something interesting to say about overcoming that. It seemed that these dads were predisposed to be great fathers and their stories reflected that.
That’s not to say there weren’t any touching stories. Two that stood out to me were:
Vessels by Daniel Raeburn is absolutely heartbreaking as he recounts his wife’s pregnancy and subsequent still birth of their daughter Irene. It’s a raw, honest, heartbreaking and graphic story.
My favorite was Punk Rock Roadie Dad by Rob Spillman. Rob was a closet punk rocker as a teen, too afraid to go against the establishment or his parents, instead blasting his rebellious music behind closed bedroom doors. His daughter Isodora however is a punk rock goddess already, forming a band at age 14. Her parents ask her if she wants to join the soccer team but she says no because she will NEVER be forced to wear a uniform!! At first her parents worry about her being cut off from the other “mainstream” kids but Isodora has a good head on her shoulders and Spillman realizes she is the person he never had the guts to be.
I had mixed feeling about What Would I Tell her but I still would recommend it. I think people will have different reactions to it based on their life experiences. Although I personally didn’t connect with many of the stories I’m sure others will.
Rating: 2.5 out 4
Buy the book! What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To and Letting Go of Their Daughters