[Firstman’s] genre-bending memoir explores parent-child relationships, evolution and life as we know it.”
“Firstman’s characterization of family dynamics is pitch-perfect: her own impatience and frustrations with her father balance his foibles and thoughtlessnessand her humor softens the lot. This is a very endearing book, a summer read for the curious mind.”
The Paris Review
“This reflective memoir examines an odd and estranged father through the lens of his scientific expertise.”
“Firstman is ready to give the raw emotions surrounding her relationships with her parents narrative form, utilizing storytelling, science, and the quirks of a 1970s upbringing to make sense of a childhood less than ordinary.”
"[A] unique debut [that] easily stands out among memoirs because it is as much about considering the world around us as it is about one very interesting father-daughter relationship."
“It turns out that the search for the origins of the universe can be a risky deal. We don’t always like what we find. Carole Firstman, with grace and elegance and wildness and terror, pushes into that essential mystery and emerges with compassion for what still haunts usa scorpion, a letter, a fatheras well a glimmer of insight, or at least acceptance, into why we do the things we do.”
Nick Flynn, author of My Feelings and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“Firstman takes her reader into the uncertain liminal spaces of her life and relationships, and as with the best memoir writing, often exposes in the process the reader’s own unexplored emotional territory.” Steven Church, author of One with the Tiger: On Savagery and Intimacy
“Firstman takes us deep into the human heart [...] her clear-eyed and sympathetic writing transcends science to engage the elusive complexity of truth, the means and ends of human experience."
John Hales, author of Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West
“A saddening but ultimately redeeming memoir.”
Life with father isn't always the stuff of greeting cards.As Firstman's (Writing/Coll. of the Sequoias and California State Univ., Fresno) memoir opens, we find her scientist father dying, but not so quickly that he doesn't have time to request a shipment of references books, DVDs, posters, and so forth. Having established that her father is a man of parts and letters, the author slowly reveals a more nuanced, less sympathetic, and certainly more compromised figure than the eccentric, bookish fellow we first encounter. He effectively abandoned her in childhood, she writes, but not out of intentional cruelty; chalk it up to Asperger's, perhaps, or to the fact that "he just wasn't all that interested in fatherhood." But he was interested in whether she had any desire to appear nude in Playboy. "I think I understood that if I answered ‘yes,' " she writes, " 'I would be making promises I wasn't ready to make and I wasn't sure I wanted to keep.' " That she was 6 or 7 at the time of the question makes it all the creepier, but having unveiled the very fact that he asked it, the author tucks it away again, saying only that it taught her to "withhold the answer an adult, any adult, expected of me." A touch more anger, if not at the white-hot level of, say, Carobeth Laird's Encounter with an Angry God, would not be out of place, but Firstman writes with cool evenhandedness of her father's many accomplishments and shortcomings, some of which can indeed be attributed to the spectrum, some to a dynamic of codependence: "I recognize the literary injustice here," she writes of her mother, "how the absent parent—my father—gets the most page time." In the end, the book, with its ironic title, will leave most readers glad that their families are normal, at least by comparison. A saddening but ultimately redeeming memoir that, though well-paced and well-told, is of limited appeal.