“My earliest memory is of a gun.”
And so begins the first chapter of John Davis’ memoir, My Father’s Son.
John Davis knows how to write an opening line.
“My earliest memory is of a gun”
Is there a reader who could put the book down at that point?
I briefly flirted with the idea of adding this third memoir to my review of two others, written but not yet published, but it just didn’t work. It was watering down that original review and not doing justice to Davis’ book, either. A no-go.
So I find myself, on this second day of the new year, reading John Davis’ memoir of his devastating early years with a father who beat him regularly and seemingly at random. A child who grows up with the threat of unpredictable, but frequent, violence that often seems to be set off by nothing more than his walking into a room never really stops looking over his shoulder.
It is a tribute to Davis’ determination to survive that he can write at the beginning of Part II of My Father’s Son–a bit prematurely, it turns out– that he “was 34 years old, married for 3 years, and had a good job and a home in northern New Jersey.” He felt he had put his father and his childhood safely behind him.
Then he finds an email from his mother, with whom he has had no contact “in a few years.” The email is followed by a large envelope full of documents.
After a long childhood of violent abuse, he is about to be blasted again. There are many different kinds of violence.
My earliest memory is of a gun.
A real strength of John Davis’ memoir is his refusal to embrace the easy answers or the pat conclusions. At the time of his writing, Davis admits to his confusion. He moves forward; he is fully participant in his life. But the facts haven’t cleared up the morass of a muddy and confused childhood.
The facts probably never do. Writing sometimes can. John Davis has at least attempted to put some of his demons to rest–and to share his story with others. With a sigh of relief, he writes,
“Writing this book has released a lot of my anger so I can now say that I hope he has found some peace in his life. I also hope that sometimes he is able to reflect and is sorry for things he has done wrong— especially to me.”
Your readers hope so too.
John Davis grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, NY, and now lives in West Milford, NJ, with his wife and their two cats. He works as a Plant Manager and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business. John is also the bass player in a local rock group, Rumble Dolls. My Father’s Son is his first book.