Nick Flynn has written a brutally honest memoir of a life defined by his father's downward spiral of alcoholism and homelessness. That the son's life so closely resembles the father's is no mistake. It is the family legacy.
Johnathan Flynn begins with dreams of writing but is quickly sidetracked by alcohol, his potential nothing more than sediment at the bottom of a bottle, albeit seductive and alluring. All that is left is Johnathan's grandiosity, two ex-wives and three children.
One of two sons by Johnathan's first wife, Nick is trapped in a spiral of poverty and lack of opportunity, always cognizant of the father who has lost his way. It is understandable when Nick chooses the same respite as his father, all the while fighting the same ugly fate. Nick's very personal and painful memoir is a paean to his terrible journey toward self-discovery and a resolution of the father/son relationship that so haunts his youth.
Working as a counselor in a homeless shelter, Nick eventually comes face to face with his father, a man who has only left a few spoken words and fewer letters to fill the empty years. But Nick is not his father, and though the journey is similar - the life of petty crime, the drinking - there is more of a survival instinct at work in the son. Nick uses the tools he is given, which are few and inconsistent, but the love of words is seared deep into his consciousness, perhaps a legacy, perhaps a realization of his own future.
Clearly this book is a harrowing journey of the soul, an attempt to confront the losses of the past and the reality of the present. A painful and difficult read, this is a familiar road for many; what is amazing is that there is still another personal story of profound loss and the search for self. With its unflinching honesty, this memoir is an important contribution to all of us, a product of great courage and humility, above all, the symbol of a deeply compassionate heart.