Audiobook Review – Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

Title: Not My Father’s Son: A MemoirAudiobook Review
Author: Alan Cumming
Narrator: Alan Cumming
ISBN: 9780062350770
Audiobook Length: 6 hours, 28 minutes
Genre: Nonfiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 7 October 2014
Bottom Line: Poignant, heartfelt, and thoroughly engaging

Not My Father's Son by Alan CummingSynopsis:

“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 thirteen, 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: A Memoir is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.”

Thoughts:  Alan Cumming is a fascinating actor. His ability to throw himself into any role is quite impressive. More importantly, anyone watching him knows that he truly loves what he does. Whether it is performing on Broadway, in a kid’s movie, a coming-of-age story, or playing more serious roles, he brings a passion to his work that is both enjoyable and unmistakeable. We should all love our jobs as much as he obviously does! However, there is a dark side to Mr. Cumming’s life which was previously unknown, or at least not well-known here in the United States. In Not My Father’s Son, Mr. Cumming graciously shares this dark story with the world and does so with an honesty and insight that is refreshing, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

The story Mr. Cumming has to share – one of awful mental and physical child abuse – is not an easy one to tell, but he does so openly and insightfully. Readers will sympathize with young Alan’s sufferings at the hands of his father but will understand how that created the remarkable man that he is today. If anything, one has a greater appreciation for all of Mr. Cumming’s successes specifically because of everything he faced as a child.

Not My Father’s Son is not just a story about Alan’s childhood. It is also about his fractious relationship with his father well into his adulthood, and his father’s shocking revelation that Alan is the result of a long-ago affair of his mother’s. Alan’s pain and confusion at this revelation is palpable, and a reader will ache with sympathy at the turmoil this bombshell causes in him. Coinciding with this revelation is Mr. Cumming’s experiences filming “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the unveiling of long-held maternal family secrets. His excitement and trepidation at everything he learns about his maternal grandfather only compounds his mental anguish at his father’s revelation.

As one might expect from someone appearing on a television show devoted to uncovering family secrets, Mr. Cumming is not willing to accept his father’s words at face value, and it is this mystery which draws a reader into his inner anguish and growing resolve to discover the truth. He tells his story unflinchingly with stark honesty through the good parts and the bad. He does not paint rosier pictures than that which actually occurred and never shies away from the truth, no matter how bad it might make his family appear.

As he flashes backwards and forwards to the filming of the show to his discoveries about his father and mother, one is taken on a very emotional story of pain, suffering, survival, and profound love. Readers finish the novel understanding that Alan is man with a large capacity to love and be loved. His affection for his brother, his mother, and his husband are particularly joyous to experience through his eyes.

Not My Father’s Son is as much a survival story as it is a way for Alan to face his family demons. That Alan is a survivor is unquestionable, as he establishes a family dynamic in which he was constantly made to feel lacking in everything he attempted to do. However, he surrounded himself with friends and those family members who did believe in him and built a life for himself which led directly to who he is today. His is a remarkable story for what he experienced at the hands of his father, for what he has overcome, and for the fact that he recognizes how fortunate he is.

6 Responses to Audiobook Review – Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
  1. Mysterious Bibliophile
    December 28, 2014 | 11:57 AM

    Beautiful review! You are a terrific writer. This sounds like a very compelling book.

    • Michelle
      December 28, 2014 | 3:54 PM

      Thank you so much, Irene! I thought Alan did such an amazing job sharing his story. His forthrightness only made me like him that much more!

  2. susan
    January 1, 2015 | 6:09 PM

    Alan Cumming is terrific on The Good Wife. I wish that by writing this memoir it helped him overcome those demons etc. He seems a terrific person

    • Michelle
      January 1, 2015 | 10:05 PM

      I think he is. Everything I’ve read about him and learned about him only confirms that theory!

  3. susan
    January 1, 2015 | 6:13 PM

    ps. he reads his own story for the audio … that must be quite powerful

    • Michelle
      January 1, 2015 | 10:09 PM

      Yes, he does! I think it makes his story and his insights more interesting.

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