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Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
     

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir

4.6 52
by Alan Cumming
 

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In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

A beloved star of stage, television, and film—“one of the most fun people in show business” (Time magazine)—Alan

Overview

In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

A beloved star of stage, television, and film—“one of the most fun people in show business” (Time magazine)—Alan Cumming is a successful artist whose diversity and fearlessness is unparalleled. His success masks a painful childhood growing up under the heavy rule of an emotionally and physically abusive father—a relationship that tormented him long into adulthood.

When television producers in the UK approached him to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, Alan enthusiastically agreed. He hoped the show would solve a family mystery involving his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East. But as the truth of his family ancestors revealed itself, Alan learned far more than he bargained for about himself, his past, and his own father.

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 a film, television, and theater star. At times suspenseful, deeply moving, and wickedly funny, Not My Father’s Son will make readers laugh even as it breaks their hearts.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/28/2014
Scottish actor Cumming struggles to reconcile with his troubled past in this moving, if oddly structured, memoir. Alternating between three time periods—“Then,” “Now,” and a span of several months in 2010—Cumming recounts his life on a rural Scottish estate under the brutal reign of his abusive father, Alex. Equally violent toward Cumming’s older brother, Tom, Alex was a defining force in Cumming’s life, with the emotional and physical scars of his beatings affecting Cumming long after he left home for drama school at age 17. In a parallel narrative, Cumming recounts his experiences as a participant on Britain’s Who Do You Think You Are?, a television program on which celebrities explore their pasts, often going so far as to get genetic tests. Even as issues closer to home involving Cumming’s ties, or lack thereof, to his father arise (as the book’s title might suggest), Cumming is determined to delve into his family history: and find out what happened to his maternal grandfather, Lieutenant Tommy Darling, who served his country in WWII and ended up suspiciously dead several years later in Malaysia, where he was a member of the police force. While the particulars Cumming learns about Darling are striking and memorable, this really is a case where the journey is more important than the destination. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-07-27
The award-winning actor uncovers his family's darkest secret. Instead of writing a showbiz memoir with stories of his eclectic career, Cumming—who has won countless acting awards, including a Tony for his role in Cabaret—anchors his book with his discovery of the truth about his grandfather's premature death (at age 35) and a recognition of the "dual family narrative" of shame and secrecy. He came to understand that both he and his grandfather Tommy Darling suffered combat stress: Darling as a decorated World War II soldier and the author at the hands of his father. Cumming creates visceral scenes of his father's unhinged, irrational anger during his childhood in the Scottish countryside. He details the physical and psychological violence his father mercilessly heaped upon him, including a beating so ferocious he wanted to die, having his hair brutally shorn against his will with rusty clippers used on sheep, and hearing countless times that he was pathetic and useless. Cumming and his brother learned to shut down their emotions and suppress any feelings of joy, lest their vindictive, tyrannical father remove from their lives whatever gave them pleasure. As an adult, he freely expresses the authentic "pixielike" personality he abandoned in childhood, when he couldn't play and enjoy life. He also kept some totems from his childhood, miserable though it was (he even wore his father's sweater in his first headshot!), since he regards them as "a part of my happiness today, because it is a part of me." From discovering the truth about his grandfather's mysterious death to attempting to understand his father's sadistic nature, Cumming explains that it is important to be candid and forthright, that "there is never shame in being open and honest." A raw, revealing memoir from a courageous actor and writer.
Neil Gaiman
“Equal parts memoir, whodunnit, and manual for living, NOT MY FATHER’S SON is a beautifully written, honest look at the forces of blood and bone that make us what we are, and how we make ourselves. I was completely sucked in.”
Harlan Coben
Alan Cumming’s moving memoir NOT MY FATHER’S SON is a beautiful book—sad, funny, haunting, surprising, suspenseful, gut-wrenching, endearing. It will linger inside of you long after you turn the final page.
Library Journal
09/15/2014
Describing growing up the youngest of two in rural Scotland under an abusive father, multiaward-winning actor Cumming (The Good Wife; Cabaret) blends powerfully disturbing childhood trauma with his contemporary search for ancestral clarity as he recounts an enigmatic maternal grandfather named Tommy Darling, a well-respected Scottish servicemen whose disappearance, and demise, had always been a family mystery. Lifelong curiosity leads Cumming on an illuminating path from Scotland to Malaysia as a participant on the renowned television series Who Do You Think You Are? The episodic nature of the text provides the perfect framework for Cumming's discoveries about his grandfather, which include prestigious awards and stunning acts of valor. Drama continues to unfold when his father reveals an explosive secret that turns the entire family on its head. Cumming's dry wit transitions effortlessly to the page, eliciting laughter one moment and gut-wrenching discomfort the next—anecdotes praising the Eurovision Song Contest sit easily alongside dark recollections of being subjected to his father's inexplicable rages. VERDICT While the "then and now" structure, which features frequent chronological shifts, might seem choppy, the memoir sculpts an insightful, relentless examination of Cumming's hardships, alongside keen observations about the continuing effect of abuse on his life. A moving read that fans of the man and of memoirs won't want to put down. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062225061
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/07/2014
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.51(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Alan Cumming is an award-winning actor, singer, writer, producer, and director. He recently starred in an acclaimed one-man staging of Macbeth on Broadway, and appears on the Emmy Award-winning television show The Good Wife. He won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the Emcee in the Broadway musical Cabaret, a role he reprised in 2014. He hosts Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS and has appeared in numerous films, including Spy Kids, Titus, X2: X-Men United, The Anniversary Party, Any Day Now, and Eyes Wide Shut. He lives in New York and London.

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Not My Father's Son: A Memoir 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
This wonderful memoir by the ultra-talented actor/performer/artist Alan Cumming is a candid look at his childhood growing up on a vast estate on the east coast of Scotland and the physically/mentally abusive father whose violence shaped (and nearly derailed) his life. His father was the head forester, and the laborious tasks that he set for his son were the least of his problems. The reader is startled to learn that “dealing with my father’s violence was the beginning of my studies of acting.” He learns to submerge his feelings, from his father, in order to spare himself from even worse beatings, and from himself as well. The book goes on to explore that period and the toll they take on him, as well as other family mysteries. He states “our family had always been one of secrets, of silence, of holding things in.” The chapters alternate between “Then” and “Now,” the latter period starting in the Spring of 2010, when the author has already achieved a high level of fame and celebrity in film and stage displaying an extraordinary range, everything from playing a transvestite on film to introducing Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS television, the Emcee in Cabaret (the latter such a success that he is now playing the same iconic role in a revival on Broadway), as well as, in an entirely new production, “a man who is admitted to a psychiatric unit and then proceeds to act out the entire play of Macbeth,” an unforgettable performance. Mr. Cumming also has done concerts in 2 of the most beautiful and sophisticated cabaret venues in all of Manhattan: the now-departed Feinstein’s at the Regency, and the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. And of course who can forget his wonderful portrayal of Eli Gold, political operative, on the terrific series The Good Wife?! But all of this takes a back seat to the central mysteries of the book: His relationship (such as it was) with his father, in the exploration of which he is joined by his older brother, and seeking the truth about his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East, when he agrees to participate in a popular celebrity genealogy show. The surprises come early and often, wringing much emotion and some tears from the author and, I suspect, many of his readers. Mr. Cumming has described himself as “Scottish elf trapped inside middle-aged man’s body,” and the reader cannot but be completely charmed by this engaging man, and completely caught up in this engrossing albeit often-disturbing tale, which is highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alan Cumming's blends two real-life & personal stories into a well crafted book. He shares his childhood & family secrets with the readers in this honest & at times, heartbreaking, story. I recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me more of a Alan Cumming fan. I first saw him in Circle of Friends. Reading his life story brought tears to my eyes. How can a kid be treating like so. Heart breaking. A very honest book to read. I reccomend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not at all the usual celebrity biography. A completely human story, with more compassion and understanding than usual. Shows us a remarkable man emerging from an abusive past.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and touching, very well written book, Helped me to understand some of my own childhood and father.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing and poignant. Shows the strength of the human spirit to survive and triumph through abuse and indifference.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An emotional rollercoaster of emotions will overcome you while reading this book. His ability to understand his current state of being causedby his childhood experiences is relatable to those who grew up in unlikely situations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peppered with the wit fans love him for, Alan Cumming's memoir is capable of making the reader an emotional wreck on one page, an indignant compadre on another, and a giggling tagalong, thankfully, throughout. Fans will love him more by the end, simply for his willingness to share the pains of life being lived despite outside forces. Perfect accompanied by a glass (bottle, ahem) of wine and a box of tissues.
Anonymous 27 days ago
I was moved by this book. I couldn't put it down. It's a great read!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Thank you to the author for an inspiring memoir told with grace and wit and deep honesty. Lots of heart and soul in this true-life book.
Anonymous 5 months ago
It takes a strong person to survive those circumstances. He not only survived, but was victorious.
Anonymous 7 months ago
A talented actor, singer, and host bares his soul. Worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great thanks to Alan for opening up about his life story. He is a real person with real life's struggles which we at some point in our lives have also. I recommend reading this book. It gives a new perspective about life and not taking things for granted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marvelous, moving account of some of the forces that have shaped the life of a gifted actor who is also a man of valor, sensitivity, humor, unflinching honesty, and love; the world is a better place with him in it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
25jump More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. Love the man even more. After reading his story I can see why he is such a great actor. BRAVO!
pupper More than 1 year ago
Just OK.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed and cried. It was hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it! And understand you're not alone! No matter how long it takes, let the healing begin. Hell of a story from a hell of a man!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good Read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rough chiidhood..but he came through it with flying colors. A good man.