The Prodigal Father: Reunting Fathers and Their Children


The Prodigal Father, written from the perspective of a man who both lost and regained his position in his son's life, maps the process of estrangement and the route to reunion. Grounded in a decade of work in adult education, most notably as cofounder of The Artist's Way workshop techniques, Bryan is an adroit and inspiring practitioner of the skills needed to rebuild lives. His work as a counselor with troubled teens as well as his history as a teen father, an estranged father, and finally a reunited father ...
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The Prodigal Father, written from the perspective of a man who both lost and regained his position in his son's life, maps the process of estrangement and the route to reunion. Grounded in a decade of work in adult education, most notably as cofounder of The Artist's Way workshop techniques, Bryan is an adroit and inspiring practitioner of the skills needed to rebuild lives. His work as a counselor with troubled teens as well as his history as a teen father, an estranged father, and finally a reunited father allow him to know the problems of father absence inside out. Bryan's voice, from the heart and the heartland, speaks for disenfranchised fathers and families everywhere.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
June 1997

If you are a father estranged from your child, a single mother hurt by a man who refuses to parent, or someone who lost contact with a father through separation or divorce, Father's Day can be a difficult and painful holiday. This Father's Day, join Mark Bryan, author of The Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers and Their Children, and take the first step on the road to establishing — or reestablishing — the fragile relationship between an absent father and his child.

The statistics on father absence speak for themselves: More than half of American children will not be raised by their birth fathers; 30 percent of children of divorce have never been inside their father's homes; 50 percent of divorced fathers see their children only once a year. In his groundbreaking book, Bryan addresses these statistics by looking beyond the stereotype of the "Deadbeat Dad" to the regret and pain suffered by estranged fathers. Then he offers a proven, step-by-step program to help these men assume a vital role in their children's lives.

The success of the program outlined in The Prodigal Father is grounded in Bryan's extensive work in adult education, both as the coauthor of the bestselling The Artist's Way and most recently as the director of the Father Project. The eight-step program helps estranged fathers negotiate the sensitive and tenuous path to reunion and includes advice on making amends to a child's mother, planning and initiating the reunion, and establishing an ongoing relationship. Bryan rounds out this program with aspecialsection urging mothers to help in the reunion process.

Bryan knows of the grief of separation and the triumph of reunion firsthand. He married his high school sweetheart at 16 and fathered a son at 17 but was divorced within two years and lost contact with his son for 14 years. Throughout The Prodigal Father, Bryan tells the story of his own turbulent road to reuniting with his son, Scott, as well as the reunion stories of people he has met through his Father Project workshops. With Bryan's practical advice and moving honesty, The Prodigal Father brings solutions and hope to one of the biggest and most critical problems facing our society today.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a timely book; the terrible effects of father absence on children and fathers alike are more widely recognized and taken more seriously now than ever before. Bryan himself fathered a child at age 17, married his son's mother and then separated from them both less than two years later. Here he recounts the story of his own tortuous journey back into his son's life after an absence of 14 years. As he tells the story, he provides a modified 12-step program to help other absentee fathers; many chapters end with checklists, assignments and self-questionnaires, and there is also an appendix to help mothers of the children involved. Although some men will be put off by the recovery-movement jargon in the book (the reader is advised to take "gratitude walks," for instance), those who are prepared to make the difficult journey back into their estranged children's lives will find much practical assistance here.
Library Journal
Bryan has put together an admirable package of anecdote and action to get the men who are among divorce's victims moving to heal themselves and their broken relationships. The director of the Father Project and affiliated family research projects at Harvard, Bryan knows the terrain. He married and divorced at a young age; his own odyssey of making things right with his son is powerful and moving. Through his work with other fathers, he has expanded the boundaries of his experience, and here he writes powerfully of men's diminished role in our society's increasingly one-parent families. While acknowledging the difficult underlying causes of family breakup, Bryan urges positive action. Toward that end, the book provides exercises and guidance in soul-searching and corrective action for fathers wanting to build bridges to their children and even the divorced spouse. With reunion and respect the goals, Bryan has provided a valuable manual, written from the trenches.
-- David M. Turkalo, Suffolk University Law School Library, Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609802038
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/12/1998
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Bryan has been a teacher and writer for over a decade, and is a nationally known speaker in the human potential movement.  He is the cofounder (with Julia Cameron) of  The Artist's Way. His experience both in developing extremely effective self-help techniques for The Artist's Way and as a reunited father led him to create this program to help estranged fathers.

Bryan received his masters in family education from Harvard University and is Director of The Father Project, affiliated with the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology, Boys Development and the Culture of Manhood.  He is currently researching The Artist's Way for Work.  Mark Bryan lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Mark Bryan's Own Story:

"I am a gratefully reunited father," Bryan says. "I remember vividly the fear and confusion I felt when Betsy told me she was pregnant. We were both sixteen, juniors in high school. I wanted to do the right thing, 'be a man.' We married, Scott was born, and we tried to be the happy family we told people we were. But, living in the basement of my parents' house, working days, studying nights, our marriage soon fell apart. When Scott was eighteen months old, Betsy and Scott moved back home to Virginia. I made the 300-mile trip as often as I could, but visiting them became more and more difficult. When Betsy told me she had a new boyfriend and a new life, that I couldn't see Scott anymore, I was devastated. While we talked in the garage, John, ten years our senior, waited in the kitchen to lend her his support. I wanted to argue the injustice of her decision, but John was an intimidating presence. I was tongue-tied and intimidated. Though I don't know if she actually said it, all I could hear that day was that I did not deserve this son any longer. That Scott was better off without me in his life. Too confused to challenge Betsy morally, let alone legally, I got into the car and headed back to Ohio.
I can see now the impact that confrontation had on my life. It started for me a downward spiral that became a descent into hell. For over a decade, I drifted in and out of college, in and out of jobs, in and out of depression, alcohol and drug abuse. When I was thirty, I finally sought professional help and turned my life around, facing the fact that my most important loss was my connection with myson. I devoted myself to "becoming the man I would want my son to meet."
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Haunting 13
2 The Shared Trauma of Separation 39
3 Getting Ready: The Return of Self-Respect 65
4 Making Amends to Your Child's Mother 93
5 The Reunions 123
6 First Contact with Your Child 141
7 Different Ages, Different Needs 159
8 Forging New Bonds 177
9 Embracing Your Child's Extended Family 217
Epilogue 237
For Mothers 241
A Guide to Starting a Study Group 253
Bibliography 259
Research Sources 263
Acknowledgments 269
Index 275
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Interviews & Essays

Before the live chat, Mark Bryan agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  You must have quite a library, considering all the wonderful quotes throughout The Prodigal Father. How many books do you have? Where do you keep them?

A:  I have two or three thousand books that I have collected over the years. One of my goals is to actually read them all. There are bookcases in every room of the house. I don't read that much these days, except journals and papers, because I write instead.

Q:  Do you have a quote or motto that inspires the way you live your life?

A:  Yes. Edmund Hillary failed at his first attempt at Everest, and once back in Britain, he stood in front of the London Explorers Club, which had funded his failed attempt, and explained the expedition. Projected behind him was a ten-foot photo of Everest. At one point during the talk, he turned to the photo and said, "I will defeat you, Everest, because you cannot get any bigger, but I can."

Q:  What is one of your favorite things about being a grandfather?

A:  That I made it this far. And the sheer joy of holding my granddaughter within minutes of her birth. The doors of my life swung back 24 years. The moment when she was two, and she said, "Don't touch my sandals!" "Don't touch my sandals," I responded. She paused for just one instant, and there was that moment of recognition that I will treasure forever.

Q:  Who was your hero or role model when you were growing up?

A:  My father, the Texas Rangers, and all the comic book superheroes: Flash, Fantastic Four, Phantom, Spiderman, et cetera. And the World Surfing Champion every year, Albert Sweitzer.

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