Posted on November 25, 2015
My Father’s Son by Andy Symonds
Nathan is just thirteen when the knock comes at the door which turns his world upside down. His father, a decorated Navy SEAL has been killed during combat in Afghanistan leaving Nathan, Cheyenne – Nathan’s eight year old sister and their mother Gayle to cope as best they can in the aftermath of his death.
From the first page Nathan captures the attention of the reader:
“Most people can’t pinpoint an exact moment when their life changed to such an extent that they effectively became a new person. It’s a rare privilege, or great burden, to have cognizant memory of what amounts to a re-birth. For better or worse, I am in that terrifying fraternity.”
Although his father’s team mates, Uncle Spencer, Bull, and LT Hagen do their best to give Nathan (Nate) direction they are absent, away on duty, for long periods of time. Nathan is left to struggle with all the usual problems and distractions of adolescence as well as cope with the loss of the father he usually looked to for guidance.
Because his father died a hero Nathan finds it difficult to live up to the expectations of those around him and feels he is letting everyone down. Living in his father’s shadow puts a lot of pressure on Nate as he moves through adolescence and he is regularly in trouble. He is angry with the world and everyone in it.
Especially when he meets up with the girl he likes,Tammy, who has strong opinions on America’s involvement in the Middle East. She voices the opinions of many who believe the soldiers and sailors should not be in Iraq or Afghanistan. She is against the killing of anyone and so therefore is against war. But as Nate said “It’s not that simple” as the forces have a job to do in protecting the rights of the country’s citizens.
Andy Symonds has captured the hopes, disappointments and confusions of a teenage boy dealing with the sudden and violent murder of his father whilst trying to discover his own identity as he matures.
Although a book containing a lot of sadness and pain it is not a depressing read. Throughout, it contains hope; hope that Nathan will pull through the difficult times; hope that he will make his choices, not on what is expected of him, but on what is right for him.
Beautifully written it gets to the heart of the lives of the families of those working for the Services. It is a book with depth, courageously exploring family relationships in time of terrible tragedy and the long lasting effects it has on the children who are left behind. Frequently angry, Nathan’s relationship with his mother begins to change but he still retains a loving affection and a desire to protect his little sister Chey.
Andy Symonds has also conveyed the additional issues that arise from the death of a family member who is part of the Services. As the lives of Servicemen and their families are intertwined they form a cohesive unit and each time a member of that unit is killed in service it affects all the other families. Death, especially where the Forces are deployed to places like Afghanistan, is a regular occurrence and each new death brings fresh pain to everyone, opening wounds that have yet to heal.
It is a book that needed to be written and should be read, whether you believe in war or not.
Andy Symonds is an award-winning journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area. His father is a thirty-three year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and he grew up on military bases throughout the world.
You can follow Andy on Twitter: @fatherssonbook