This is a review that I’ve had to take my time to write. Not because of any wrong with the story but because of everything it did right. This book is an amazing, heart wrenching piece of work that I devoured in 2 days a little over a week ago and have been sitting with since because it just gave me a lot to process. Don’t Cry For Me by Daniel Black is a dying father’s letter to his estranged son who he struggled with raising. The father, Jacob, was raised in the south by his grandparents. His grandfather taught him what it meant to be a man and by all those standards he was. Jacob was determined to raise his son, Isaac, to be the same. What he was ill prepared for was a son who was gay.
In these letters he’s explaining to his son the lessons that he’s been taught, by his grandfather and by life, about what it means and what it looks like to be a man. As he progresses through each letter and unpacks his own life you see him realizing the many flaws that existed in his parenting (and other life decisions) and in his denial about who his son really was.
This story gives you so much to think about. As a child you don’t really think of your parent as a person. They’re just your parent. You don’t think too much about who they were before you, let alone what they were like growing up, what they went through and how that impacted their ability to parent. These thoughts tend to come later in adulthood, for me it came when I had children of my own. In these letters he’s sharing his own secrets and traumas, in hopes of making amends with his son or at least to help him reach an understanding as to why he went about things the way he did.
In some letters Jacob is simply explaining that at the time he was doing the best he could with what he knew, in others he’s calling himself out (in his own way) for his mistakes and acknowledging that he could have done better.
However, Jacob, was not the only complex character in this story. Isaac’s mother was an intelligent woman who seemingly lost herself in her young family and struggled with that loss leading to her struggling with alcoholism. She seemed to be Isaac’s support system until he came to her one day and actually said the words, “I’m gay.” In this moment she calls on Jacob, the same person she reprimanded when Isaac was a child, to try and “fix it” asking him what was he going to do about this. This led Isaac to creep back in the closet and walk back his statement still not allowing him to walk in his truth. I imagine for Isaac that had to be especially difficult. He obviously struggled with connecting with his father but his mother seemed to always be in his corner until that moment. In that moment he went from one parent in his corner to being completely alone. I was pleased with Isaac’s growth as he moved into adulthood and truly began to be himself despite what his parents thought of him.
The relationship between Jacob and Isaac’s mother was also interesting. Their relationship evolved from a love story, to a toxic relationship and in the end what seemed to be an actual friendship. Seeing Jacob come to realize what he had lost was expected but no less heartbreaking.
My only wish with this story was that we could get some kind of perspective from Isaac upon finding these letters. I would love to know how he felt reading his father’s stories. Would they lead to some kind of closure for him? Would he forgive his father or at least understand his perspective? Would he even bother to read the letters at all? These are questions I may never have the answer to but i’m actually ok with that. I’ll let my own imagination do what it does when it comes to these questions because this author did more than enough.
READ THIS BOOK.
I would recommend this story to any and everyone. This review barely scratches the surface of the magic that's hidden between the covers. Don't Cry For Me is thought provoking, it is certainly a page turner and it is a story that I will gladly read over and over again.
"You must learn to uproot unwanted seeds without destroying the entire harvest."