Bob Armstrong's Father's Day Books List
Dadolescence by Bob Armstrong: Stay-at-home fathers were all over the TV screen and book shelves last year, including in my debut novel, which featured a trio of them. My protagonist, forty-something Bill Angus, doesn’t think of himself as a stay-at-home father. He’s an anthropologist conducting participatory-observer studies of the phenomenon of stay-at-home fathers, and in the process asking “What is a man when he isn’t going out into a hostile environment to wrest a living for his family?”
The Antagonist by Lynn Coady: At the heart of this tragicomic story of a young man drawn into violence is a fraught but loving father-and-son relationship. Lynn Coady’s 2011 novel, shortlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. is also an exploration of the impact of the mythology of rock-'em sock-'em hockey on Canadian masculinity.
The Fearsome Particles by Trevor Cole: Trevor Cole’s second novel is a story of a father trying to understand what’s wrong with his son who is home psychologically scarred from war in Afghanistan, trying make contact with his wife who is lost in a fantasy of real estate perfection, and also attempting to keep the company he works for from collapsing in a cut-throat economy. It’s a funny, poignant examination of a father’s need to protect his family and his realization that sometimes he must stop trying.
Happiness Economics by Shari Lapeña: The better-known Canadian stay-at-home father novel from last year (it was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour), Happiness Economics asks readers what we value and why. Will Thorne, having largely abandoned poetry to focus on raising his children, launches a plan to regain a sense of purpose in life as founder of The Poets’ Preservation Society, leading to growing conflict with his celebrity economist wife Judy and their children, in a world where price and power are everything.
Once You Break a Knuckle by D. W. Wilson: This debut short story collection by an internationally heralded young author is filled with working-class fathers and sons struggling, and sometimes failing, to hold things together in a British Columbia mill town. Beginning with an act of sporting violence that is also an act of love, Wilson’s collection is full of stories that are tense, touching, sometimes darkly comic and always full of truth.
The Film Club by David Gilmour: When David Gilmour’s son Jesse wanted to drop out of school, the Toronto journalist-novelist came up with an intriguing offer. Rather than force the young man to stay in school, Gilmour told him he would quit provided he agree to watch three movies a week with his father. The resulting discussions of the ideas and artistry of film deepened the father and son relationship and led to a lot more learning than would have occurred in the classroom.
With the Boys by Jake Macdonald: Odds are when you’re looking for a Father’s Day card for the old man, you’ll see more than a few images of fishing rods and shotguns. This collection by Canada’s premier outdoorsman-author (Grizzlyville, The Houseboat Chronicles) explores the connection between masculinity and those pre-Gore Tex outdoor pastimes, beginning with a moving story about taking his aged father out for one last goose-hunting trip.
Swing Low by Miriam Toews: Readers of Miriam Toews’s novels know that she leavens a comic sensibility with a profound awareness of the sadness of life. This memoir of her father, whose lifelong struggle with depression led to his suicide in 1998, explains why. Told from the perspective of Mel Toews, Swing Low explores love and pain and human fragility.
Bob Armstrong is a novelist, playwright, book reviewer and freelance writer who lives with his wife and son in Winnipeg. His 2011 comic novel Dadolescence grew out of a Fringe Festival hit about a stay-at-home father and his son, which he performed with his then-twelve-year-old son Sam in 2007. This spring he has written a series on parenting dilemmas for CBC Radio’s Content Factory. He’s currently working on a play about Louis Riel and the United States and a comic novel about sibling rivalry and the prairie ecosystem.