4.5 stars. This miiiiiiiight be the first celebrity memoir I’ve ever truly enjoyed enough to actually think about purchasing. (I’m not counting Ansari’s look into modern dating as a real memoir). I’ve always loved Alan Cumming’s work and he seems like a lovely person, but I’m experienced enough to know that likeability doesn’t always mean a memoir will be good. I’m happy to say that not only was Not My Father’s Son a strong piece of literature worth reading on its own merit, but I came out of the experience loving Alan Cumming that much more.
I’ve never seen the show “Who Do You Think You Are?”, but the basic premise is a bunch of researchers enlightening celebrities about interesting things in their genetic history in front of a camera. In 2010, Alan agreed to do the show which would focus on his maternal grandfather who he never met. At the same time, he was grappling with his immediate family’s history dealing with his father’s mental and physical abuse. Alan hops between chapters filling the reader in on his difficult history and chapters dealing with his thoughts and feelings in 2010.
My heart alternately hurt and soared as I read about his awful father and Alan’s ability to rise above his past and embrace life with his uncrushable spirit. I’m so glad he decided to focus the book on these particular familiar relationships instead of turning it into a more generic memoir covering his entire life. I think that focus, along with his excellent writing and wit, is what pushes this particular book to the top of the celebrity memoir pile.