Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: Fathermucker by Greg Olear

Fathermucker by Greg Olear
Publisher: Harper
Published Date: October 4, 2011
ISBN: 978-0062059710
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Book Summary: A day in the life of a dad on the brink: Josh Lansky—second-rate screenwriter, fledgling freelancer, and stay-at-home dad of two preschoolers—has held everything together while his wife is away on business . . . until this morning’s playdate, when he finds out through the mommy grapevine that she might be having an affair. What Josh needs is a break. He’s not going to get one.

My Thoughts: I felt a little bit like I was on a roller-coaster ride while reading Fathermucker. My feelings veered between loving this book, laughing out loud at it and, at one point, almost giving up on the book and refusing to finish it. Josh Lansky drove me nuts during this story: he's funny, intelligent, creative, irritating and an idiot...just your typical man! Granted, he’s got a lot on his plate and he’s surrounded by bored moms, some of whom are a little bit manipulative.

The truth is once you start reading this book, you want to finish it to know what happens. I was rooting for Josh and his family from the beginning. Josh is a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) to 5-year-old Roland and three-year-old Maude. He's also a struggling screenwriter. He sold a script not too long ago that was almost made into a movie starring George Clooney but, in the end, it didn't happen. He’s been dealing with writer’s block ever since. His wife, Stacy, is the breadwinner, working in marketing at IBM. Stacy has been away from their home in New Paltz, NY on business for five days, making Josh's life more difficult than usual.

Josh has been struggling the last few months, feeling uninspired and coping with one of those low periods that’s just a part of life. He's also felt disconnected from Stacy during these low months, a 'bad patch' in their marriage. When one of the mom's at Maude's play dates delivers some shocking news, that she thinks Stacy's having an affair, Josh considers it a very real possibility. In the midst of children playing, running, wailing, and slurping juice boxes, Josh learns his marriage may be in trouble.

Josh is a smart, funny and creative guy who loves his wife and adores his children. He's a great dad and, although he sometimes feel a little insecure about being a SAHD, most of the time he's fine with it, particularly because it should permit him the opportunity to write. Unfortunately, Josh has been simply going through the motions the last few months. He's found it nearly impossible to muster interest in anything. As a result, he knows he 'botched' Stacy's 40th birthday celebratio. He wasn't surprised when their marriage hit a new low for weeks afterwards. He now actually believes he may have blown it for good. Like many men, Josh doesn't easily distinguish his wife's irritation and anger with him from something much more serious, such as Stacy no longer loving him. In typical guy fashion, Josh doesn't try to communicate with Stacy to clear things up immediately. Instead, he decides to try and ferret out the truth on his own in between caring for his children and keeping a semblance of order in the house. Stupidity, confusion and poor judgment may cause Josh to do something he'll very much regret. Our hope is that he comes to his senses before it's too late.

Greg Olear has written a very creative and current book about a dad trying to juggle play dates, school trips and nap time with house hold chores and a flagging freelance career while, at the same time, trying to determine if his marriage is in jeopardy. It's enough to make anybody's head spin, hence, Josh feels he's about to lose his mind. This is especially evident in the screenwriting scenarios he imagines that have Stacy cheating on him with various individuals...each more ridiculous and entertaining than the last!

One of the things I enjoyed the most in Fathermucker are the pop-culture references of which there are many. Josh is well-informed about current music and movies and celebrity relationships...he's obsessed with US magazine! He’s also a big fan of Facebook. He begins every day by checking his Facebook account. It seems the parents in the Lansky's social circle as well as their friends from all over, use Facebook to keep up with each other. Josh is also well-versed in Dr. Seuss and provides a hilarious rundown on the happenings among all of the couples they know in New Paltz using Dr. Seuss language from One fish two fish red fish blue fish and other fantastic well-known titles!

Fathermucker isn't all lightness and fun entertainment as Josh tries struggles to get through the fifth day of Stacy's absence as well as cope with the rumors she's having an affair. His son, Roland, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Olear does an admiral job of showing how Asperger's might manifest in a five-year old with out getting too intense and going over-board. In a chapter titled "Asperger's: A Chronology" Olear gives the history of Asperger's while interspersing, with some wit and humor, Roland's own diagnosis and history of Asperger's. Josh also shares how stressful it has been for he and Stacy coping with Roland's Asperger's since, like most parents, they want his life to be the best it can be.

I read more books by women authors than men. I've been trying to make an effort to read more books by men. But when I first saw this book on TLC Book Tours list I didn't see the author's name...I was attracted by the title and the red lollipop on the cover. I hoped both meant this was a book written with wit and humor. Then when I read the summary for this book and realized it was about a family and, specifically, a dad in crisis, I definitely wanted to read it. I've read many books similar to this one but from the woman's point of view. I was excited to get the man's perspective on a day in the life of raising children, keeping a marriage strong and cultivating a career. I wasn't at all disappointed by this book. Fathermucker was light and entertaining as well as intense and complex. This book has stuck with me since I finished it over a week ago. I've thought about Josh, Stacy, Roland and Maude quite a bit. I'm looking forward to reading more by Mr. Olear and I highly recommend this book to women and men!

Greg Olear's website and blog, Healy Gates.

Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Fathermucker and to Harper for a copy of this book.


  1. Wonderful review -- this isn't a book I would have picked up at all but you've made me very curious! Sounds sort of like Domestic Violets which everyone is hot on right now.

  2. I have been intrigued by this title and after reading your great review, want to read the book.

  3. This DOES sounds like a rollercoaster ride, albeit a good one! I'm glad you gave this one a shot - sounds like it will stick with you.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  4. Great review, Amy! I'm interested in this book now more than I might have been from the title alone.

  5. The best line of your review: "he's funny, intelligent, creative, irritating and an idiot...just your typical man!"
    That cracked me up.

    I think I HAVE to read this book now. The title has always gotten my attention but it sounds really really good and like something I would relate to (other than him being a man.)

  6. A book I'd enjoy! Great review!

  7. I loved this one, but thought that all the pop culture references would date it at some point. Josh's story was one that was easy to sympathize with, but sometimes I felt he was a little naive (especially with that one scheming neighbor woman). I had friend who felt that they would never read this book because they felt that it was basically whining from a man about what a stay at home mom does naturally and without complaint. I can see where that would make some people crazy, but I liked the book a lot. Josh was an easy character to get along with. Fabulous and wonderful review today! Thanks for sharing it!

  8. The title of this book always grabs my attion, but I love the way you describe it as entertaing as well as complex - that is so rare to find in a book. Think I'm going to have to keep an eye out for it now.

  9. The wife's name is Stacy-spelled correctly-so I think I have to read it :) Just from reading your awesome review I'm roointg for them to make it!