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The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me

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Bestselling author Bruce Feiler was a young father when he was diagnosed with cancer. He instantly worried what his daughters' lives would be like without him. "Would they wonder who I was? Would they wonder what I thought? Would they yearn for my approval, my love, my voice?"

Three days later he came up with a stirring idea of how he might give them that voice. He would reach out to six men from all the passages in his life, and ask them to be present in the passages in his ...

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Overview

Bestselling author Bruce Feiler was a young father when he was diagnosed with cancer. He instantly worried what his daughters' lives would be like without him. "Would they wonder who I was? Would they wonder what I thought? Would they yearn for my approval, my love, my voice?"

Three days later he came up with a stirring idea of how he might give them that voice. He would reach out to six men from all the passages in his life, and ask them to be present in the passages in his daughters' lives. And he would call this group "The Council of Dads."

"I believe my daughters will have plenty of opportunities in their lives," he wrote to these men. "They'll have loving families. They'll have each other. But they may not have me. They may not have their dad. Will you help be their dad?"

The Council of Dads is the inspiring story of what happened next. Feiler introduces the men in his Council and captures the life lesson he wants each to convey to his daughters—how to see, how to travel, how to question, how to dream. He mixes these with an intimate, highly personal chronicle of his experience battling cancer while raising young children, along with vivid portraits of his father, his two grandfathers, and various father figures in his life that explore the changing role of fathers in America.

This is the work of a master storyteller confronting the most difficult experience of his life and emerging with wisdom and hope. The Council of Dads is a touching, funny, and ultimately deeply moving book on how to live life, how the human spirit can respond to adversity, and how to deepen and cherish the friendships that enrich our lives.

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  • Bruce S. Feiler
    Bruce S. Feiler  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 2008, bestselling author Feiler (Walking the Bible) learned he had a rare, life-threatening tumor in his left leg. Fearing what his absence would do to the lives of his young daughters, Feiler asked six close friends ("Men who know my voice") to help raise them. Feiler chronicles his battle with cancer, from diagnosis to recovery, as well as his sentimental but moving journey to recruit friends who can carry out his wish to teach his daughters to travel, dream, and live life to its fullest. Feiler's intimate bond with his friends makes them unusually expressive and communicative (if lacking in humor), and their own biographies lend further inspirational dimensions to the story. Though his letters to friends and family can get ornate ("The Brooklyn Bridge...is looking fresh-faced and handsome overhead, its famed promenade glittering like the pot of gold at the end of a long journey to come"), it's hard not to get swept along and cheer Feiler on as he fights for his life and his daughters'.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Feiler (America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story, 2009, etc.) asked his closest male friends to provide guidance, wisdom and love to his children, should he not survive. The author chronicles the daunting process of enduring a life-threatening condition, creating an amalgam of travelogue, family album, personal memoir and portrait of a marriage. With the same measured, down-to-earth voice that distinguishes his popular explorations of historical landmarks and religious figures, Feiler describes the men in his life who have shaped him, including his father, both grandfathers and the men he chose to fill his fatherly shoes in case his extensive surgery and chemotherapy treatments proved unsuccessful. By reverently marveling at the achievements, sorrows and credos of his male role models, the evolution of his deepest friendships and his wife's courage, the author looks beyond his own lifetime, putting the struggles of the present into a philosophically astute and humble context. Through regular letters to loved ones, he offers snapshots of his "Lost Year," bluntly recounting the ravages of aggressive procedures, the impact of his weakened state on his daily life and the moments of joy, connection and grace he still finds within the anguish. His contemplative candor, fortitude and wry humor come through in the simplest of phrases: "No one aspires to be the person who handles this kind of situation well." Addressing his daughters, the author writes about "the great paradox of parenting: Even as we come to feel we can't live without you, our primary job is to prepare you to live without us. Our task, in a sense, is to make ourselves obsolete."Feiler tackles personal hardship with inquisitive and heartfelt eloquence. Author tour to Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Raleigh-Durham, Savannah, Washington, D.C.
Michael Lindgren
…Feiler's conversations with his potential stand-ins are candid and moving. The Council of Dads exemplifies the mysterious process by which bad news can alter our perspective and reorder our priorities, and it celebrates the ever-expanding level of emotional intimacy that men are increasingly free to engage.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061778766
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Walking the Bible, Abraham, and Where God Was Born, as well as the host of Walking the Bible on PBS. An award-winning author, journalist, and speaker, Feiler is a graduate of Yale and Cambridge Universities. He is a frequent contributor to NPR, CNN, and Fox News. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and twin daughters.

Biography

Bruce Feiler has turned his curiosity into a career, writing on topics from clowning to Christianity with a sense of wonder, humor and inquisitiveness. Most recently he has become known as both theological tourist and tour guide, exploring Biblical history and its physical and cultural roots in the 2001 bestseller Walking the Bible and in 2002's Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.

Feiler had begun his career writing about another culture with Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, a funny and enlightening account of his year as an English teacher in a small Japanese town. The book continues to be embraced by those who want a better understanding of Japanese culture, one spiked with the humor of its alien gaijin observer. Feiler depicted another hallowed educational system in Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge, an account of the author's experiences as a graduate student at Cambridge. Feiler's books educate, but their appeal also lies in the discoveries he makes as someone entering a new situation with natural preconceptions, then having those ideas upended by reality.

Kicking the fish-out-of-water theme up a notch, Feiler joined the circus for Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus. Here, Feiler showed the journalistic enterprise and mettle that would later figure into his bold journeys through Biblical territory. Spending a year performing as a clown on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, Feiler provides a surprising look at the show, its performers and the often seamy underside that accompanies circus life.

Feiler jumped into yet another milieu with his look at the country music industry, Dreaming Out Loud. Presenting an insider's view of Nashville made possible by his access as a journalist to stars such as Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd, Feiler puts together of picture of starmaking -- including in his profiles a young talent named Wade Hayes -- and the machinery that runs modern country music. As with his other books, Feiler describes how his notions (he hated country music before Brooks made him a fan) have evolved along with his subject.

Feiler is also an award-winning food writer and journalist who has written articles for major publications such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the New Republic. But he gained a larger audience when he took on his biggest topic yet: the Bible. "Over more than a decade of living and working abroad I found that ideas, and places, became more real to me when I experienced them firsthand....In the Middle East, the Bible is not some abstraction," Feiler wrote in an essay on Barnes & Noble.com about the origins of Walking the Bible. "It's a living, breathing entity unencumbered by the sterilization of time. That was the Bible I wanted to know, and almost immediately I realized that the only way to find it was to walk along those lines myself."

In taking that walk, Feiler vastly expanded his audience and found himself a subject he would stick with. He was already working on a sequel to the book when September 11 redirected him toward one aspect of his earlier studies: the religious father figure of Abraham. He set out to find hope in this binding tie among Judaism, Christianity and Islam; but found, again, a different picture than the one he anticipated painting. Feiler's education is ours; without him asking the questions, we might not have new insights on cultural fixtures that already seem so familiar.

Good To Know

How he wrote his first book: Feiler appropriated sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's self-description as an "explainaholic," then explained in an interview with a country music web site how he came to write his first book: "I wrote a series of letters home [from Japan] of the ‘you’re not going to believe what happened to me today' variety. When I came back home, everywhere I went people said to me, ‘I really liked your letters,’ and I would say, ‘Do I know you?’. It turns out that these letters had been passed around. I thought, well, if this is as interesting for me and my family and all of you, I should write a book about [my experiences]."

Feiler, who grew up Jewish in Savannah, Georgia, says that an early encounter with the legend of Abraham was part of a watershed moment for him. The Torah passage he read for his Bar Mitzvah was Lekh Lekha, the story of Abraham going forth from his father's house. He told BeliefNet, "The defining moment of my life was the night of my Bar Mitzvah, when my father pulled me aside at this family gathering, poured me a drink, and said, 'Son, you're a man now, you're responsible for your own actions.'"

Feiler's exploration of the Bible has been confined to the Hebrew Bible, leaving out much in the Old Testament and the entirety of the New Testament; but he told readers in a USA Today chat that he hopes to do a sequel that would take him through the events of Jesus' life.

Feiler is also a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and has won two James Beard Awards for his food writing.

Feiler says he has traveled to over 60 countries and sprained his ankle on four continents.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Bruce S. Fieler
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Savannah, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1987; M.Phil. in international relations, Cambridge University, 1991

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Passing on your true self, your best self, to your children, after you're gone.

    "Take a walk for me."

    I cried at page 32. But the good kind of tears, where you remember the awe-inspiring moments of delivering your child and knowing you have a loving partner who has your back, for life. Though I've never met Bruce Feiler and his wife Linda, I wish that I could be a part of their lives.

    Bruce Feiler, the man who wrote "Walking the Bible," is suddenly told he has a seven-inch tumor in his left femur.

    He will die.

    He panics about leaving his twin girls fatherless and so, with his wife, decides to create a "Council of Dads" to mentor his daughters and also serve as a testament (and memorial) to his life after he dies. As readers, we meet each member of the Council of Dads and Bruce reviews their shared history and also asks what each member can provide to his girls. Male friendship is so different from female friendship (and we recognize that Bruce is so lucky to have these men in his life) and their shared memories offer much-welcomed comic relief to a sad, but also uplifting true story. The true tragedy is that a man who made his living walking is now unable to do so.

    Interspersed with the intros are (I'm assuming) actual e-mails that Bruce sent out, chronicling his diagnosis, treatment and progress. The e-mails are the best parts of the book - so full of raw honesty, joy in his silly daughters, aching with love for his wife, and always ending with, "Take a walk for me."

    I predict that this book will become a popular book club selection over the next three years, as both women and men analyze their past and current friendships and ask themselves, "What will my friend say my life meant?"

    Read this book. You don't want to miss it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A must Read

    I was so grateful to win a copy of this book thru Good Reads First Look. I liked it a lot and it reminded me of combining Randy Pausch and Mitch Albom style of writing with humor, great lines, awesome quotes, and deeply spiritual and moving. The author, Bruce Feiler talks about his childhood and an unfortunate accident that happened when he was a kid. Fast forward years later and he learns that he has cancer. As he worries about his twin girls he and his wife decide on the council of Dads, 6 men that Bruce picks to represent him in the event of his death. Each man comes from a different time in Bruce's life, not family but ones who mean the most to him. I really loved this idea and it really does make you think about your own mortality as you are reading this. He literally goes thru hell and back with his chemotherapy treatments and pain from the surgeries. Bruce is an inspiration and I urge everyone to pick up a copy of this great book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

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    WILL BRING A TEAR O YOUR EYE AND JOY TO YOUR HEART

    Bruce Feiler's twin daughters, Eden and Tybee, were a scant three years old when in 2008 he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Life had been good until that date, he was a young man with many years before him. But now, his time here might be very limited and what was to become of his daughters without a father? Who would guide them, answer their questions?

    The answer to those concerns came to him, as he says, "I awoke from a half sleep, and there was ... this letter forming in my head to my closest friends asking them to be there to answer my daughters' questions." He would ask each of them to be present for his daughters at different times in their lives - for instance, there would be one to talk to them about travel, another who would help them understand the possibility of making their dreams come true, still another to guide them regarding values. And he would call this group the Council Of Dads.

    His book of the same title is deeply moving and a lesson on how to face adversity as well as a reminder of the importance of friendship.

    Now, cancer free Feiler is a best selling author (Walking The Bible, Abraham, America's Prophet) and the host of the PBS documentary Walking The Bible. He gives eloquent voice to his story in this Unabridged version from HarperAudio. Listen, THE COUNCIL OF DADS will bring a tear to your eye and joy to your heart.

    - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    good book in all

    BUT, i hated the writing style. I felt like the author bounced around a lot, and honestly, I only remember a couple of the dad's due to this. He would go from a letters to friends and family, to introducing the Dad's, then back about his father's life. It was very hard to follow along. I wish he would have kept the letters, and through the dad's in between. Then you could have gotten a very clear cut answer to who the dad's were, and also 'kept up' with his prognosis. Still though, a very lovely story on how a Dad wants to keep himself alive in his daughter's heads after he dies.

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