Summary (taken from book cover):
Dark, painful memories can be like a cage. Or, in the case of Alan Cumming, they can be packed away in a box, stuck in the attic to be forgotten. Until one day the box explodes and all the memories flood back in horrible detail. Alan Cumming grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alex Cumming, Alan’s father.
When television producers approached Alan to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, he enthusiastically agreed. He hoped to solve a mystery that had long cast a shadow over his family. His maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, had disappeared into the Far East after WWII. Alan’s mother knew very little about him – he had been a courier, carrying information between battalions on his motorbike. The last time she saw her father, Alan’s mother was eight years old. When she was 13, the family was informed that he had died by his own hand, an accidental shooting.
But this was not the only mystery laid before Alan’s feet. His father, whom Alan had not seen or spoken to for more than a decade, reconnected just before filming for Who Do You Think You Are? began. He had a secret he had to share, one that would shock his son to his very core and set into motion a journey that would change Alan’s life forever.
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 the celebrated actor of film, television, and stage. At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always incredibly brave and honest, Not My Father’s Son is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.
This was quite shocking. I thought I had grown up with a violent father, who beat us with a carpet beater as punishment for small ‘wrongdoings’, who threatened to give us in an institution for difficult children if we disobeyed, and who told us we weren’t worth anything. Well, compared to what the author went through, my father was harmless.
Yet, my siblings and I were all damaged, my sister probably hit it worst. I used to have nightmares about my father chasing me to beat me, I had an eating disorder for decades, and yet, after having listened to Mr Cumming’s biography, I know I got away lightly.
After all, my father just didn’t know any better, having grown up under worse conditions (back then even the teachers beat the crap put of children), and despite all this, I know my father loved us and didn’t mean evil, and he actually cared for us.
My relation to my father was a love-hate one, and somehow, I feel that it was similar for the author for a long time, or else he wouldn’t have fretted so much about gaining his father’s approval.
As you can see, I could totally relate to Mr. Cumming’s angst and emotions, and I really and truly hope that he has put it all behind him for good.
There’s no family secret to be uncovered in my family as far as I know. The one revealed in the book was fascinating. Although there was a sad tale in it, too, it was yet uplifting, and I rejoiced with the author that he ‘got to know’ his maternal grandfather, and that he was at peace with himself in the end.
The narration was absolutely perfect, I totally loved the accent, and the way Alan Cumming narrated his story. I’ll certainly check out other books by him.