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August 25, 2003 12:00 PM

By Colin McEnroe

This memoir begins with a journalist facing mortality as seen through the eyes of an older man, but it isn’t Tuesdays with Morrie Revisited. Instead of getting advice, McEnroe, a columnist for the Hartford Courant, must deal with the crankiness of real father Robert, whose death is the final passage in a life not particularly well lived.

As Robert, a one-hit playwright (The Silver Whistle) turned real estate salesman, lies dying, his son realizes that he never truly knew him. The younger McEnroe splices together feelings of sadness, love and even, at times, amusement in a quest to understand his dad—and by extension himself. The fractured narrative can be frustrating, but it offers wit, charm and a painful kind of wisdom. (Warner, $23.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Candid and refreshing

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