My Father's Heart: A Son's Journey

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On an autumn night in 1969, John McKee had a heart attack—an event that would end his life, and change his son Steve’s forever. With heart disease being the number one cause of death among Americans, My Father’s Heart is an extraordinary story of an all-too-ordinary scenario: A father dies, a son remains, and the loss casts a long shadow across a generation. Chronicling the disorienting first days following John McKee’s death, this powerful memoir of love, forgiveness, and finding oneself is rich in evocative ...
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My Father's Heart: A Son's Reckoning with the Legacy of Heart Disease

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Overview


On an autumn night in 1969, John McKee had a heart attack—an event that would end his life, and change his son Steve’s forever. With heart disease being the number one cause of death among Americans, My Father’s Heart is an extraordinary story of an all-too-ordinary scenario: A father dies, a son remains, and the loss casts a long shadow across a generation. Chronicling the disorienting first days following John McKee’s death, this powerful memoir of love, forgiveness, and finding oneself is rich in evocative details of time, place, and family.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Post
A tender tale that manages to nicely portray family life of a certain time and place-mostly the 1960s in Pennsylvania and Western New York.
Booklist Online
The story has many dramatic, emotional moments.McKee is a good, precise writer, and his account of life with (and without) his father is undeniably touching.
York Daily Record
A book that does a lot of things, everything well. It informs about heart disease and how it runs in families and provides counsel for wellness. It's a son's extraordinary quest in trying to understand a complex father. It's an ordinary story about a typical suburban family. And it's a memoir of growing up in York in the 1960s.
Northern Virginia Magazine
[A] touching memoir of grief and loss, a book that gives personal depth to a common medical concept: `family history.'
Publishers Weekly

At the age of 16, Wall Street Journaleditor McKee (The Call of the Game) watched his 50-year-old father, John, drop dead of a massive heart attack. In this affecting memoir, he uses the trauma as a lens through which to view his family history. Early cardiac arrest was a hereditary constant for McKee's male relatives and an occupational hazard for postwar breadwinners like John, a World War II vet who smoked three packs a day, had a sedentary but hellishly stressful middle-management job and endured his first heart attack at age 44. McKee pens an homage to his father's way of life, with its dutifulness and web of family and community ties, but also a critique of its toll. Reacting against his father's apparent surrender, the author turns his life into a rebellion against the inevitability of heart attack. He eschewed a workaholic career for the creative life and maintained a fanatical fitness regimen-running, rowing, triathlons, all manner of health food diets and nutritional supplements-only to learn in middle age that cardiovascular disease had caught up with him. McKee includes illuminating medical lore about heart attacks and oral histories from survivors. But most of all, he discovers in the most ordinary way to die a perspective on how to live. (Feb. 1)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Nearly four decades after the fact, Wall Street Journal copy editor McKee (The Call of the Game, 1987) tries to come to terms with his father's death and his own mortality. On September 30, 1969, the 16-year-old author watched his 50-year-old father die suddenly of a heart attack. More than 35 years later, McKee discovered that he too had a less-than-healthy heart and became obsessed with learning everything he could about cardiac disease. Part of his journey involved resurrecting a piece he'd written in college about his father's death and expanding it into a book. The resultant memoir, which features reminiscences of high-school days, stories about his love of sports and a multitude of information about heart disease, was clearly cathartic and therapeutic for the author, so that readers can't help but root for him to make it through the story both wiser and healthier. In substantial portions of the text, McKee takes a journalistic approach, offering specific details (dates, addresses, heart disease-related statistics, etc.) in such a smooth manner that the numbers seem to be a natural part of the narrative. There are also plenty of weepy moments, which don't hurt the narrative since the book would have suffered had he kept more distance. The nonlinear structure allows for the author to jump from topic to topic, including a section of people describing their heart attacks, in-depth descriptions of professional football games past and other loosely related material. Those who suffer from heart disease will undoubtedly find solace in the fact that they're far from alone. However, this earnest endeavor doesn't have quite the literary resonance one might have hoped. A rambling homage tolove, perseverance and the pursuit of longevity: touching but a bit treacly. Agent: Jeff Kleinman/Folio Literary Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738212579
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/9/2009
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Steve McKee is an editor on the global copy desk of the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Noreen, and their son, Patrick.
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