Fairyland: A Memoir Of My Father by Alysia Abbott (5 out of 5)
This was a pleasant surprise. Following Little Failure and Take This Man, this book definitely makes the top five of biographies/memoir this year. The cover is perfect for the stories told inside, and how often is that the case? There were parts where crying did occur, and the end gave way to full-force waterworks. It is a stunning beautiful testament to a girl’s love for her father, and her appreciation of him, through good times and bad, until the end. Everyone who’s lost a parent needs to read this book. Truly beautiful. There are a number of funny vignettes as well, so it’s not all rusted coins and empty gin bottles, but there are a number of moments that will bring out your inner weepy cheepie.
Alysia loses her mom in a car accident when she is only two. Her openly bisexual activist dad Steve Abbott takes over her care and they head out to Haight- Ashbury. Steve tries to make his living as a poet von vibrant, while trying to raise Alysia. It doesn’t always work out so well, but for the most part, all of the stories told here smack of choices made out of love for his child. Unconventional it was in the sense that Steve often thought nothing of taking young Alysia to poetry slams (not what they were called back then, but certainly that’s what they sound like, written about here), and introducing her to a cast of bohemian characters, most of whom end up making a mark in her young viewfinder of the world. Alysia grows up surrounded by love, culture, and a lifestyle that seems like the making of a stellar short story. Little girl grows up, little girl decides that no matter how hard the decision to leave a place she loves so much to venture out into the open world beyond San Francisco, it’s a decision that she must make and stand by it. Alysia heads out to study in New York, then France. Her father finally levels with her and tells her that he needs her to come home; he has AIDS. When Alysia returns, she finds a good portion of those that she grew up with in her father’s circle, either have passed from this newfound enemy, or are dying from it. She watches her father put up the fight of his life, and learns just how very much she admires, loves, and is going to miss him when he’s gone.
This isn’t just a story about losing a parent to a long-term illness. This isn’t just a book about overcoming insurmountable odds to raise a two year old child in a lifestyle that most would condemn. This isn’t about the Haight-Ashbury life, although you may think so, based upon the back cover description and some Goodreads recommends that made me wince. It isn’t just about AIDS in the early days. It isn’t, yet it is. It is an all encompassing book that takes no prisoners, and holds no hostages, except the reader. For which one should be eternally grateful. Buy the ticket, take the ride. It’s so worth it.