Title: Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
Author: Alan Cumming
Narrator: Alan Cumming
Length: 6 hrs and 28 mins
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
A beloved star of stage, television, and film, Alan Cumming is a successful artist whose diversity and fearlessness is unparalleled. His success masks a painful childhood growing up under the heavy rule of an emotionally and physically abusive father—a relationship that tormented him long into adulthood.
When television producers in the UK approached him to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, Alan enthusiastically agreed. He hoped the show would solve a family mystery involving his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East. But as the truth of his family ancestors revealed itself, Alan learned far more than he bargained for about himself, his past, and his own father.
With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as a film, television, and theater star. At times suspenseful, deeply moving, and wickedly funny, Not My Father’s Son will make readers laugh even as it breaks their hearts.
This is going to be a very personal review. Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming touched me in a way not many (audio)books have done before. I think this has to do with the many similarities I found between Cumming’s life and mine.
In this memoir Alan Cumming tells us about his difficult childhood and the opportunity offered to him to find what happened to his maternal grandfather by the British TV show Who Do You Think you Are, and the subsequent revelations this brings to his life.
Alan Cumming grew up in Scotland under the regime of an abusive father. His daily life was plagued by physical and mental abuse. He lived day after day in fear not knowing what was going to trigger an outburst on his abusive father, as well as waiting for the day he will be able to finally leave the house for good. That is something I can identify with. Hearing him talking about his experiences was almost hearing my inner voice talking about mine. It was hard to hear, but at the same time it was almost like a therapy. It was good to know that I was not alone. It was good to hear somebody else, somebody like Cumming saying, “This happened to me too”. Cumming also tells us about the repercussions his abusive childhood had on his adult life, about his nervous breakdown on his late 20s and about all the work he has done to move forward and to learn to forgive. Cumming also tell us about his good relationships with his mother and with his brother. Seeing him interact with his brother was almost seeing myself interact with my sister. Cumming’s conversations with his brother about the abuse they suffered were like many conversations I had with my sister. Those in which you get together to try to pin the pieces together and verify that what you remember was really what happened, because memory is a funny thing, one that sometimes makes you forget to protect you, but at the most unexpected moment betrays you, bringing to the front the many things you have forgotten. The problem in those cases is how to make sure that what you remember is what really happened. The only person that can help you with that is the person that shared those experiences with you. In his case was his brother; in mine, it was my sister.
Cumming also tell us about the process of filming Who Do You Think you Are, a program in which they are searching for the truth behind the life and death of his maternal grandfather. A man who after serving in the World War II decided not to come back to his wife and little kids, but instead accepted a post in Malaysia where he later died.
What he discovered about his grandfather is heartbreaking; a reality of war that it was a taboo in the past as it’s PTSD and the consequences it can have in an individual. Cumming also discovered the many similitudes he has with his ancestor, not only in regards to personality traits, but also in being a person suffering from PTSD. Yes, his PTSD is different, his is thanks to his abusive upbringing and not war, but is still very valid and very real. The difference is Cumming has had the support and help needed to move forward, while his grandfather medical condition was kept quiet and never addressed or really treated by the Army.
I’m very glad I listened to this audiobook instead of reading the book. Alan Cumming is not only an excellent actor, he is also an excellent writer and narrator. With his beautiful voice and dreamy accent Cumming gives life to his words and made of this memoir an impossible to stop-listening audiobook. I loved this audiobook so much that as soon after I finished it I send an email to my sister telling her “you have to listen to this audiobook”.
Cumming balances perfectly emotion and humor making of Not My Father's Son an emotionally riveting audiobook, one that helped me corroborate that I’m not alone in my suffering, one that gave me hope that someday I’ll be able to move on and not to expect what will never come from my father, and hopefully someday maybe even forgive what needs to be forgiven.
Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming is an audiobook I recommend all to listen, especially to those persons -like me- who didn’t have an easy upbringing.
My Verdict: 5 Paws
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