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Almost a Family

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  118 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author: a beautifully crafted memoir of his lifelong chase after his father’s shadow.

John was eleven months old when his father, Barney Darnton—a war correspondent for The New York Times—was killed in World War II. John's mother, a well-known reporter and editor, perpetuated a myth of Barney as a hero who gave his
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jan 07, 2012 Chrissy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Almost a Family is the memoir of John Darnton's journey to discover his father who died as a war correspondent when he was 11 months old. I was excited about this book initially, thinking it would be an interesting look into the world of journalism through the life of one man in the war era. As I read it, I realized that while I did learn much about journalism of the era, I also got a lot more about the life of the author than I anticipated--how he met his wife, his job, etc. Much of the book fo ...more
Nina Darnton
May 28, 2011 Nina Darnton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A moving, beautifully written, heartbreaking book that is uplifting in the end, showing that a person can overcome a rocky, neglected childhood and still come out with honor, decency, talent, success and even humor.
Dec 28, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some books make you think that the biggest mistake one can make in life is being born. There's a bit of that here, but there is also an element of inexplicable fortitude and good fortune.

John and Robert Darnton, the one a successful journalist, the other a distinguished academic, somehow managed to survive losing their journalist father early in WWII and then coping with their alcoholic mother until one wild and terrible night, the mother went through four episodes of DT's with only 14 year-old
Lexie Graham
Oct 07, 2012 Lexie Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author John Darnton was a reporter for the New York Times for over 40 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of martial law in Poland in the early 80s. He brings the clear eye of an objective journalist to this memoir about his family. Darnton never knew his father Barney, who was also a reporter for the New York Times. When World War II broke out Barney left for the South Pacific as a correspondent for the Times, leaving behind his wife Eleanor, son Bob and son John, who was less than ...more
Aug 13, 2011 Betty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to trust the writing of a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, and John Darnton was worthy of that trust. He writes a memoir of his life, shaped by the absence of his father, who was killed while on assignment for the New York Times in WWII. After his retirement, the author searches for details about his father, even going to Papua New Guinea to visit the spot where his father was killed.

Darnton's research finds, not too surprisingly, his father's flaws as well as his virtues. The real a
Apr 07, 2011 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful book of a son's search for a father he never knew. What happens to you when you don't know your father? It's a powerful question. Mr. Darnton, a journalist, follows in the footsteps of the father he never knew, who was also a journalist. Darnton attempts to learn about his father's life, his death, and his relationship to his mother. The story also tells what happened to the three family members left upon his father's death: Darnton, his mother and his older brother. Having lost my own ...more
Carol Campbell
Nov 08, 2011 Carol Campbell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really feel bad only giving this book 1 star because it is well written and I can tell the author put his heart and soul into writing it. While the family history is important to him, it was more than I wanted to read. In order to justify a memoir I expect that the subject led a remarkable life (either good, bad, or a mixture)but this is just another sad story about someone who died as a result of war. The subject was just a regular guy, working hard at his profession, who had a family. I only ...more
May 02, 2015 Erocchio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was unable to understand the need of the author to "find" his father and by the end, though I saw the need, I couldn't tell what difference it made. This was a very soul/heart rending memoir, written with lots of detail and clear images of what life was like for the author. I wanted to cry and did for a lot of the stories he told. I don't think we ever really know our parents but we definitely have ideas about them that become our truths. I hope the author found the truths he needed not only o ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the bravest memoir i have ever read. long in the gestating but well worth the wait. an amazement and a disappointment, especially after a fullsome cover review in the NYTBR, that this gorgeous piece of writing and bold exploration of the lies that infect most families, but few this dramatically, didn't fly off the shelves. if you haven't read it you are missing something very special, written by a pulitzer prize winning colleague who lived his own life, long and well, before tackling the subject ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darnton's account of his childhood and his investigation of his father's life and death is well-written and interesting. There's also a strange connection to Adrian, Michigan...Darnton's father grew up in Adrian, in a well-known and well-established family. John Darnton visited Adrian during his research (and acknowledged Jan Richardi in the text) to visit his father's grave and connect with his father's family.
Nov 05, 2011 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir of a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist recounts the author growing up without his father (killed in WWII), and his journey to becoming a star reporter at the NYT. I was more interested in his descriptions of what it was like to work as a foreign correspondent than in the actual family history.
Sep 05, 2011 Jrabach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was a 3 for the first 100 or so pages, and a 5 after that. Great piece of investigative journalism, made all the more poignant since he's investigating the circumstances around his own father's death.
Dec 12, 2011 Lizette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting story set in the Pacific battles of WWII. The author, who lost his father at 11 months, tries to find the "truth" behind the myths his family has created to carry on after the father's passing. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction with its twists and turns.
May 27, 2011 Thomas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I came away a bit mixed-minded about this book. I did not find it to have the emotional context that I was expecting. I was really looking for a deeoer sense of how the loss of the author's father molded the latter's life but I did not find that.
Bob Young
Aug 02, 2015 Bob Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last few chapters describing his visit to the place where his father was killed by friendly fire in 1942 bumped it up to four interesting life.
May 11, 2011 Deedee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting memoir of a NY Tiunes journalist who is the son of two other NY Times journalists. He unearths details about his father's death while a correspondent in the S. Pacific during WWII.
Aug 22, 2011 Marcie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Boring. Too long. I did not know anything about Barney Darnton but his son's long and tedious search for tidbits of information about him was TMI.
I am most interested in WWII in the pacific. My dad was in New Guinea when the events of this book took place. Very interesting.
Britta rated it really liked it
Jan 27, 2012
Beth A. Pallai
Beth A. Pallai rated it liked it
Sep 16, 2015
Ted Mccormack
Ted Mccormack rated it really liked it
Feb 17, 2014
Steph rated it liked it
Sep 20, 2011
Cheryl rated it really liked it
Aug 05, 2012
nicole rated it did not like it
Feb 28, 2012
Kristen rated it liked it
Feb 07, 2012
mim rated it liked it
Nov 18, 2012
Samantha Anderson
Terrific read.
Barbara rated it it was amazing
Jan 10, 2014
Lothiriel2003 rated it liked it
Apr 18, 2012
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John Darnton has worked for The New York Times for forty years as a reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent. He is the recipient of two George Polk Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of five novels, including The Darwin Conspiracy and the best seller Neanderthal. He lives in New York.
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“How paltry are the traces left behind by a life, even one concentrated around those supposed things of permanence called words. We spend our time upon the earth and then disappear, and only one one-thousandth of what we were lasts. We send all those bottles out into the ocean and so few wash up on shore.” 1 likes
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