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The Sleeping Fatherby Matthew Sharpe
Synopses & Reviews
The Sleeping Father begins with a divorced dad who inadvertently combines two incompatible anti-depressant medications, goes into a coma, has a stroke, and emerges with brain damage. His teenage son — the protagonist of the book, Chris — and his teenage daughter — Cathy — inherit money from their grandfather and decide to rehabilitate him on their own.
Absent an adequate father, the children decide to make one, bringing with it a host of difficulties and opportunities. Chris tries everything from sex to capitalism in his search for guidance on the path to adulthood and Cathy, believing her secular Jewishness inadequate in the provision of a benign & divine Father, looks to Catholicism for solace and meaning.
The Sleeping Father explores the shift in the way Americans think about mental health: away from regarding ourselves as being shaped by our upbringings and toward regarding ourselves as being shaped by the chemicals in our bloodstreams. The American family, in this novel, emerges as a microcosm of larger social institutions; Moms and Dads as in-home teachers, priests, presidents, and CEOs. In focusing on the Schwartz family in crisis, Sharpe addresses the larger crisis in faith and authority in contemporary American life.
"[A]cidly funny....Readers...should appreciate Sharpe's clearly drawn characters and his thoughtful, if withering, examination of the contemporary hierarchies of family and authority." Publishers Weekly
"Sharpe's arch tone is charmingly at odds with the sprawling, inclusive structure of The Sleeping Father....He's a rare find: an ironist who actually seems to like other people." Claire Dederer, The New York Times Book Review
A divorced dad of two teenagers inadvertently combines two incompatible antidepressant medications, goes into a coma, has a stroke, and emerges with brain damage. His teenage son and daughter, Chris and Cathy, inherit some money and decide to rehabilitate their father on their own. The Sleeping Father is about the shift in the way Americans think about mental health — from regarding personality as being shaped by one's upbringing to its being shaped by the bloodstream's hormone levels. In focusing on one family in crisis, Sharpe addresses the larger crisis in faith and authority in contemporary American life. Ultimately, this is a weird but wonderful story about two children who, not having an adequate father, decide to make one.
About the Author
Matthew Sharpe was born in New York City during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia University, he is the author of Nothing Is Terrible and Stories from the Tube. He has taught at Columbia University, Bard College, and New College of Florida, and is the writer in residence at Bronx Academy of Letters, a new writing-themed public high school. His stories and articles have appeared in Harper's, Zoetrope, BOMB, American Letters & Commentary, Southwest Review, and Teachers & Writers magazine.
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