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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Tim O’Brien shares wisdom from a life in letters, lessons learned in wartime, and the challenges, humor, and rewards of raising two sons. 

“We are all writing our maybe books full of maybe tomorrows, and each maybe tomorrow brings another maybe tomorrow, and then another, until the last line of the last chapter receives its period.”

In 2003, already an older father, National Book Award - winning novelist Tim O’Brien resolved to give his young sons what he wished his own father had given to him - a few scraps of paper signed “Love, Dad.” Maybe a word of advice. Maybe a sentence or two about some long-ago Christmas Eve. Maybe some scattered glimpses of their rapidly aging father, a man they might never really know. For the next 15 years, the author talked to his sons on paper, as if they were adults, imagining what they might want to hear from a father who was no longer among the living.

O’Brien traverses the great variety of human experience and emotion, moving from soccer games to warfare to risqué lullabies, from alcoholism to magic shows to history lessons to bittersweet bedtime stories, but always returning to a father’s soul-saving love for his sons.

The result is Dad’s Maybe Book, a funny, tender, wise, and enduring literary achievement that will squeeze the listener's heart with joy and recognition.

©2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (P)2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Critic Reviews

"Bestselling author Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried) narrates with a gravelly delivery and a tone of love and hope for his sons, knowing the struggles he had with his father and the special meaning that relationship has for boys. O'Brien uses judicious pacing and a comic tone to share wisdom, love, and a list of books for the boys to read. He also provides insight into his life as a writer. We are all the better for getting to know the thoughts and experiences of this eclectic author in his own voice." (AudioFile Magazine)

"O’Brien’s narration is gentle and genuine. As the reader of his audiobook, he’s not an actor; he’s simply a dad, talking to you.... Reading [one] passage, O’Brien’s voice catches; and, as a father who also might have traveled too much for his kids’ happiness, I wasn’t breathing steadily for a while either." (The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Dad's Maybe Book

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I couldn't take it. Chapter 50 and I'm out.

Tim, I really hope you read this because it's heart felt. I too am a combat vet, not of your war, thank God, but of two wars after yours. I woke up this morning thinking the thought, "I'm not going to be a bully today." So here we are. How do I say this nicely? Sgt. O'Brian, I am truly sorry you had to serve our country in the capacity you did. Americans that feel the way you do should live their lives within the protected borders of this country, entitled by birth to what this great nation can offer them. You had no business in the uniform of the United States Army and you make that so painfully clear by chapter 50 that my 'never quit' attitude that got me through so many military schools broke and I closed your book. This is not to say that I disagree with your overall take on the Vietnam War. It was the amount of self proclaimed cowardice in absolutely everything, from being too afraid not to go to war, to being too afraid not to fight in it, and being too afraid to go to sleep without putting yourself back at war in your head. I finally broke when Timmy got cut from the team and you were at a loss. "How is this kid ever going to learn resilience with this guy as a dad" I thought... but again, I didn't finish the book so it could have some wonderful part about you just going out and shooting a couple hoops with him and saying something like "that happens to everyone at some point in their lives. Ya just gotta embrace the suck and hit your practice that much harder." This is an example of why people like you and I can't even talk to each other anymore. I feel it's because, if people like you have to do the things people like me do, you're horrified, for a lifetime. You start being horrified at the thought of possibly having to be a soldier. You're horrified to tell people you're horrified about being a soldier. You're horrified at being a soldier. You're horrified that other soldiers might find out you're not really a soldier. you're horrified at doing what soldiers do. You come home and are horrified at what soldiers did. You're not just horrified at what soldiers did in your war, you're horrified at what all soldiers have ever done. For your life... you continue to be horrified. That's gotta suck, but I guess that's what we get with the draft. "Citizens in uniform and Soldiers are two very different things." although not a direct quote from King Leonidas, the meaning is there. You wrote a book for your kids to get to know their aging dad. What a great concept and I considered reading it and giving it as a gift to my own kids as this book contains many of the same things I'd love for them to know about me... but no. Your state of terror quickly takes over this book and soaks into every crevice until there's nothing left here to share with my kids that's not tainted with the smell of your... fear. Was I scared to go to war? Hell yes. Did I go and was damn proud I did? Hell yes. Did I go again years later to a completely different war? Yes again. Would I throw my kit on and go again if they let me? A resounding yes. After 30 years of service to the county you threw a couple years at, I will not be writing books about how God Damned scared I was the whole time, shitting myself from the day I got there to the day I left, because I wasn't. Maybe that's due to the fact that they were different wars, but I think it has more to do with you not really having ever been a soldier. Will I write any book? Ya mean other than the one above? Well, maybe if I write one for my kids, it will be about strength and spirit. Maybe it will have stories of my failures and how I worked to bounce back from them. Maybe it will talk of courage and of my pride to wear this country's uniform. It will talk of my love for them, as yours did. I will talk about the sacrifices I made for them because of my love for them. It will talk of my sacrifices to this country because of my love for her... and it's people, and ultimately for you and Americans like you. So, I wasn't going to be a bully today... how'd I do? Damn it!! I blame the Senior NCO that I still am regardless of that damn retirement paperwork. I will end this by saying, man... read less Hemingway and try some Edgar Rice Burroughs. Less brooding and more action. The skill behind the pen might not be there to the same extent but you don't want to kill yourself when your done reading it.

9 people found this helpful

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Very thoughtful perspective on writing and gracefully accepting life doesn’t last forever

Several great chapters on writing and famous works tied to the trials of raising a family and making it through a handful of life changing moments that most of us will go through on some point. A fantastic overview of the american war for independence and a grueling but necessarily trail of stories criticizing aspects of war.

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Personal connection with material- level up!

As a father of adult children who lost his own parent when he was 30 - thank you Mr. O’Brien. As I reflect on the messages I want to impart on my children you gave me a base to my own journals - but also healing from my own loss.

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Loved it

Loved everything about this book. What a privilege for his sons to have these stories and lessons from their dad. I hope it inspires other parents to do the same for their kids.

3 people found this helpful

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interesting deep book with humor and realism.

this book was ad the same time nteresting and hard to get through. I couldn't stop listening once I'd started but then when I had to quit I wouldn't pick it up for a while. It was deep and made me think and I have got a few catch phrases that I'm going to keep in my lexicon. I recommend it, although I'm not sure how I recommend it. You really just have to want to sink into a realistic book with emotion and good narrative. the war part was especially gripping and I like what he said about changing the way we speak about war because all we do is gloss over what really is. I heard him on OPB reading from this book and was hooked. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.