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The Boys Are Back in Town by Simon Carr
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The Boys Are Back in Town

by Simon Carr

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Absolutely delightful. Being a rabid DVD collector over a cinema goer, when I saw the film advertised, my first reaction was to check for a release date on Amazon. The DVD was trumped, however, upon discovery of the book!

Simon Carr tells, in all honesty, emotion and dry wit, of the death of his second wife Susie from cancer, leaving him as an ex-pat in New Zealand with two sons to raise (his son from his first marriage comes to live with him too). I laughed more than I snivelled at the Carr method of 'free-range' parenting ('after benign neglect, money is the next most underestimated therapy'), which sounds delightful on paper, but could very likely backfire in practice! The personal details are necessarily sad, but the struggles of a father to both control and bond with his young children are probably universal, as are Simon's musings on childhood in general.

I will probably still rent or buy the DVD, but I dread to think how saccharine this story will become on film! (Clive Owen is a very attractive dad, though!) ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Apr 8, 2010 |
Are fathers the same as mothers? This is the central question that underlies Simon Carr’s heartfelt and searingly honest memoir, The Boys Are Back (also made into a motion picture). Carr’s answer to this question is a resounding “No!” as he recounts his adventures as a single widowed father of his five-year-old son Alexander. Most of the story takes place after Simon’s second wife has died from cancer, and he is left on his own to raise their son. Their family then becomes bigger when his eleven-year-old son Hugo from his previous marriage comes to live with them as well. The challenges of being a single father become further complicated by Simon’s bereavement, Alexander’s grief over his lost mother, and Hugo’s struggles with finding a place in his divorced family. Throughout, Simon drifts back and forth in time to recount his experiences as a father to his sons both in and out of his marriages.
Much of The Boys Are Back concerns Carr’s take on how to parent as a father rather than as a mother, and it’s an issue that he takes head on. His wife was the primary caregiver prior to her death, and after she is gone Simon has to learn how to connect with his son. He discovers that he has to do so as Alexander’s father instead of as a substitute mother, and that he has to allow his son to be a little boy. In the absence of his wife’s influence – and staunchly resisting the well-meaning advice of “mommy culture” that descends on him from other mothers, grandmothers, and the like – Simon develops his own approach to raising a boy. This means lots of physical activity and physical contact. It means setting a few unbreakable ground rules and letting everything else go. It means saying yes whenever possible instead of automatically saying no. It means a house where a boy can dress himself by pulling clothes right off the clothesline, ride his bike inside if he is careful and there’s no good reason not to, and play raucous games of King of the Bed with his father.

To some extent Carr puts too much emphasis on the differences between men and women, ignoring greater differences in personality (such as between his first and second wives) and the experiences of same-gender couples. Yet he certainly points out many real differences in attitudes and approaches to parenting between mothers and fathers that most people are too polite to talk openly about. And although his ideas about fathering may sound radical or even crazy, they are ultimately affirming of not only fathers and men, but of boys as well. Carr could have easily written a propagandizing, ten-step tome explicating his philosophy. Instead, by sharing his own experiences with warmth and honesty, he makes reading this book feel as comfortable and genuine as chatting and sharing advice with another parent at a playdate or Little League game. Review by Book Dads ( )
  bookdads | Sep 8, 2009 |
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“The Boys are Back” is a compelling account of the grief and joy of bringing up two sons in a house without women... Carr makes an honest assessment of why fathers are more lax with their children: he writes, “that we just care less than mothers do.” It’s this honesty and mordant humor that make his account of single-parenthood so affective.
 
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After Simon Carr's second wife dies, he brings up two sons (one from a previous marriage) in a domestic set-up he describes as "free range", and that visiting mothers prefer to term "semi-feral". He shows how three males of different ages and character learn from each other.… (more)

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