Michael Brendan Dougherty is best known for writing about politics. He was a columnist for the Week and now writes for the venerable conservative magazine National Review. But his memoir "My Father Left Me Ireland" has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how we live today.
It's about community and divorce, parenting and responsibility, heritage and homecoming. It's the story of how MBD's father left him before he was even born, heading home to Ireland and leaving MBD and his mother behind in New Jersey. MBD's dad floated into, and out of, his life intermittently, like a specter. There were the odd visits. The occasional letter. Just enough to make a young man bitter by showing him how much he was missing.
But MBD doesn't get bitter. He grows up. He starts his own family. And he realizes that, without even meaning to, his father did give him something important: A sense of place. Of history. Of heritage. Ireland *is* his patrimony.
Dougherty is a writer's writer. Every page sparkles. Take this line, for instance, from a passage talking about what a nation really *is*:
"I see in the Rising that a nation cannot live its life as a mere administrative district or as a shopping mall; nations have souls. It's a virtue when poetry colonizes our politics, even if today the situation is reversed. The life of a nation is never reducible to mere technocracy, just as the home cannot be, no matter how much we try to make it so. I see that nationality is something you do, even with your body, even with your death. I see that a history of plunder does not oblige those plundered to despair; it obliges them to hope, and to act on that hope."
"My Father Left Me Ireland" isn't a book about politics, but it is a book for anyone who is disgusted what our politics has become. For anyone who feels lost in a world they can no longer make much sense of. For anyone who thinks the culture is broken or that children are being abandoned.
It's a book about how we can all come home. How we can all hope.
And it's destined to be an instant classic.