Father Fiction--Donald Miller

I have to start this review by noting that I am obviously not within the demographic for it.  Mr. Miller is writing for College Freshmen, and perhaps even younger men. As a result the language is loosely constructed, more like improvised speech with odd moments of even stranger humor--stuff that might appeal to college or late high school young men.  And I should note that this book holds very little of interest to women.  It is a book written by a man for men who are struggling with issues of dealing with their own fathers.  As such, it may be of interest to a majority of men of my generation--or perhaps of any generation--men being men, I doubt a generation makes much difference in the matter of fatherly participation in the lives of their offspring.

Mr. Miller grew up without a father in the house at all--a common enough experience, I expect--and perhaps a step better than those who grew up with a succession of step-fathers or "father" figures. However, a father can be absent in more ways than one, and even those who had the physical presence of the father in a household might still have missed the presence of a father who was so emotionally distant as to be not present for all useful meanings of the term.

So, the prose is at times deplorable, the humor at times execrable, the sentiments occasionally lumpen and doughy; however, all of that said, there is good material here to mined underneath the heaping of devices designed to appeal to the authors intended demographic.  Chief among these is that the book promotes thought about what it means when one says that God is a Father--or what it is supposed to mean.  The main problem I experienced is that while these questions are advanced, too often they are not spelled out sufficiently to make the powerful impact they could have with greater exposition.  And too often the author falls back on the conventions of his particular brand of protestant faith, so that the answers once articulated are too pat, too dry, too packaged to be of help to those who are struggling with issues related to fatherhood and the identity of God. 

However, he raises the questions in a thoughtful way and begins to lead the thinking person down the path of consideration, down the path of a new image of father and of God.  In this he does a profound service to us all.  If the image that Miller begins to form of God as father were to take root in all of us, we would have good cause, when challenged, to "give reasons for our faith."  Christian spirituality tends toward an intimacy with God that is expressed through a human contact with the Divine: a proper understanding of the nature of father would tend to further this end.

So, while the writing is really so poor that it is occasionally distracting, the ideas are so strong and powerful that they deserve the exposition a better writer reading this book might give them.  As a result, the overall recommendation is lower than it might otherwise be--but for Christian men out there looking to come to terms with what the fatherhood of God is really about--this can be a short and sweet introductory primer.  It opens the door to thought.

Recommended with reservations

***1/2

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