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The Nine Lessons: A Novel of Love,…

The Nine Lessons: A Novel of Love, Fatherhood, and Second Chances

by Kevin Alan Milne

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August Witte doesn’t want to be a father; after all, his own father wasn’t a very good one. When his wife delivers the news that she is unexpectedly pregnant, August storms off and drives to his father London’s house in the middle of the night to confront him about their shared past. London Witte’s life is all about golf, but August was never a very good golfer despite London’s frustrating attempts to teach him as a boy. When London finally cuts August from the golf team in his freshman year of high school, it drives a wedge between the men that never heals. When August also accuses London of refusing to share his memories of August’s deceased mother, London proposes a deal. He has a chest containing dozens of golf scorecards on which he kept a journal of his experiences during his marriage. He will give the cards to August in installments, and in return August will agree to play nine games of golf with his father. London believes that golf is life and life is golf, and that golf can teach August to be a better father.

Over the course of the next nine months, August learns a series of lessons from his father that are accessible even to non-golfers. When his wife is touchy and temperamental due to morning sickness, he learns that you play golf faithfully even in the rain. When she humiliates him at their baby shower, he learns to give her a “mulligan”, i.e., to forgive her. And when he begins to consider how to teach his children how to behave properly, he learns about golf etiquette. Through reading about London’s experiences first as a young father and later as a widowed father, August comes to see himself reflected in his father after all. Through the lessons of golf and his new, admittedly often rocky relationship with his father, August begins to address the fears and insecurities about fatherhood that are common to all new fathers.

Milne has made an interesting choice with this book. He could easily have used his ideas about life and golf to write a short and pithy – and probably forgettable – nonfiction book with a title like “Everything I Needed To Know About Being a Father I Learned from Golf.” Instead, he has deftly woven these insights into an engaging novel where even the minor characters, like Fertile the Turtle and The Teenage Drama Queen, become an integral part of the story. It’s also a story that illustrates how easily fathers and sons can come to misunderstand each other, and holds out hope that a rapprochement is possible in even the most hopeless cases if only we can bring ourselves to tell each other the truth. Review by Book Dads ( )
  bookdads | Sep 7, 2009 |
London Witte loves golf so much he named his only child Augusta Nicklaus Witte. London’s beloved wife died when August (as he preferred to be called) was four. London immersed his young son in golf, thinking it was what his wife wanted him to do. Their relationship wasn’t easy, though, since August wasn’t a good golfer, and it suffered what seemed irreparable damage when London cut August from the high school golf team.

Years later, August is married and he and London have a tenuous relationship, at best. August doesn’t want children, so he’s floored one evening when his wife announces she’s pregnant. In a fit of anger, August hops into his car and rushes to his father’s home. His car gets stuck in the mud and he walks to his father’s house to get help. His father shows him an odd journal he’s kept on golf score cards through the years and agrees to allow August to read it on one condition – August must take one golf lesson a month from his father throughout his wife’s pregnancy.

August reluctantly agrees and the lessons end up to be life lessons rather than golf lessons. For example, they played during torrential rain during one lesson – they couldn’t use a cart and there were large puddles on the course. The moral of the lesson was, “Some days we play the game of life in the bloody rain. Not all days can be sunny skies and fair weather. But sooner or later the dark clouds dissipate. . . and the light shines through.” August learns about life through the lessons and about his father through the journal and slowly comes around to anticipating the birth of his child.

The Nine Lessons by Kevin Alan Milne is a sweet, endearing book. It’s an emotional tale about forgiveness and father-son relationships. There are great golf quotes at the beginning of each chapter, like this one from Charles Rosin – “Golf isn’t a game, it’s a choice that one makes with one’s life.” You don’t need to be very knowledgeable of golf to enjoy this book, though. I think anyone looking for a light, inspirational book will enjoy this one like I did. ( )
  bermudaonion | Jun 20, 2009 |
Who knew I would like a book about golf so much?

August Witte has been married to Erin for seven years and he is happily childless. That happiness is threatened when Erin announces she is pregnant. She’s quite happy about it, but August has some grave reservations. His father, London, is a golfer—not just someone who occasionally golfs, but someone for whom golf is life and life is golf. Since August really cares nothing about golf, he and his father seldom see each other and very rarely communicate. But upon learning he’s about to become a father, August visits his father to complain that he’s not ready to be a parent.

His father makes a deal with him—if August will take nine golfing lessons from London (one for each month of the pregnancy), London will share stories of August’s mother who died when August was quite young. What follows is the delightful story of August’s monthly golf lessons with his father and, slowly, August’s awakening to the life lessons presented to him.

Although I’m not a golfer, I found the story engaging and easy to read. While at first I absolutely did not like August, over time and over the golf lessons with his father, I liked him more and more, coming to understand his fears of fatherhood. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who might have an uncomfortable relationship with a parent, anyone who is a parent, but especially to anyone about to become a parent. ( )
  readingrebecca | Apr 28, 2009 |
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"A novel about the fears, joys, and foibles of being an imperfect parent, and the truths passed on from one generation to the next"--Jkt.

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