Misgivings is C. K. Williams's searing recollection of his family's extreme dynamics and of his parents' deaths after years of struggle, bitterness, and inner conflict. Like Kafka's self-revealing Letter to His Father, Misgivings is full of doubt, both philosophical and personal, but as a work of art it is sure and true. Williams's father was an "ordinary businessman"--angry, demanding, addicted to the tension he created with the people he loved; a man who could read the Greek myths aloud to his son yet vowed never to apologize to anybody. His mother was a housewife, a woman with a great capacity for pleasure, who was stoical about the family's dire early poverty yet remained affected by it even when they became well-off. Together, these two formed what Williams calls the "conspiracy that made me who I am." His account of their life together and their deaths--his father's with suicidal despair, and his mother's with calm resignation--is a literary form of the reconciliation the family achieved at the end of his parents' lives. And as literary form it is novel, a series of brilliant short takes, a double helix of experience and recollection. Few contemporary writers have understood their origins so acutely, or so eloquently.
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The book starts off promisingly with a philosophical, authorial distance, suggesting Williams's signature intelligence and concern: standing over his dead father, he exclaims, ""What a war we had!"" and then muses, both detached and pained, about why a son would think primarily of war instead of ...| Read Full Review of Misgivings: My Mother, My Fat...