Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
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Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  731 ratings  ·  160 reviews
A remarkable memoir from the best-selling author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August.

Buzz Bissinger’s twins were born three minutes—and a world—apart. Gerry, the older one, is a graduate student at Penn, preparing to become a teacher. His brother Zach has spent his life attending special schools. He’ll never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Kurt
Apr 07, 2012 Kurt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fathers, sons, anyone who cares for someone who is Different
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
This book is a perfect Father's Day gift: a road trip story of a man trying to bond with his son, while reflecting on his own father, his other significant relationships, and his personal triumphs and failures. It is heartfelt and powerful and a little sappy and a little funny.. and I love it passionately.

The skeleton of Bissinger's book is a road trip that he designs as an opportunity to get to know one of his sons, a young man who suffered brain damage at birth and grew up Different. Zach is a...more
Overrated Parenting
Back in the 1970's Buzz Bissinger, best known for the book Friday Night Lights, watched as his twin boys were born 13.5 weeks early and three minutes and three ounces apart. And although it doesn't seem like it should, those three minutes and three ounces made all the difference to you younger twin, Zach. Because of them, Zach, unlike his brother Gerry, suffered irreparable trace brain damage that have left him mentally retarded, unable to process the abstract, but with a savant's memory, especi...more
Kathleen
Buzz Bissinger certainly can write. Although his background is in newspaper reporting, he does an excellent job in sustaining a far longer narrative. This is the first book of his I have read, although he is rather well-known for Friday Night Lights. I do plan on reading his other books because of the pure pleasure of reading such a good writer.

The book this reminds me the most of, however, is Tuesdays With Morrie. It seems artificial. I don't believe that it took Bissinger 25 years and a cross-...more
Cynthia
This is the kind of book I would normally devour. Unfortunately, I didn't respond that way to this book. While I appreciate how incredibly tough it must be for the author to have a son with significant brain issues (particularly since this son has a "normal" twin brother), the author comes across as terribly self-absorbed and with many, many (self-admitted) issues of his own. The book is ostensibly about the author and son's cross-country drive where they could rediscover old haunts and experien...more
Jess
Buzz Bissinger's twin boys were born 13 weeks early, weighing less than two pounds. One of his sons, Zach, suffers brain damage. As a result, Zach ends up severely mentally impaired. This memoir is about Bissinger's quest to come to grips with who his son is. Bissinger and Zach embark on a cross-country road trip during which father learns much about son and himself. Bissinger's portrayal of his relationship with his son is raw, honest and real. I admired the author's courage in conveying in an...more
Laura Serico
Buzz Bissinger is not the easiest guy to like (see twitter rants) or always the most stable (see also shopping addiction article in GQ) but one thing is for certain, he is an honest parent, fallible and flawed. This book gave me a sense of greater understanding of what some of the parents I've worked with must manage on a daily basis- the questions about long term planning, feelings of grief and loss and worry, always worry. Bissinger's son Zach is a pretty phenomenal human, but the father and s...more
Craig
A father describes a road trip he takes with his autistic son so that they can become closer. So far so good.

However, I found the author to be way too self-absorbed. And the writing in places is awful. Check out this splat of literary vomitus:

"Las Vegas is tired in the morning, a sequined hooker waking with mascara streaks of black tears and dagger slits in the rising sun in the stretched holes of her fishnets. Like vampires, gamblers see the rising sun and scurry inside the nearest coffee shop...more
Kasa Cotugno
Buzz Bissinger was blessed with being the father of twins, and some would say cursed since Zack, the younger by 3 minutes, was brain damaged at birth. But these are special people, and despite splitting from his wife shortly after this traumatic event, Bissinger shared fully in his sons' development and lives. When Zack is 25, the two of them go on a trip to visit places they'd lived. Although developmentally challenged, Zack possesses several astounding talents, a gift for navigation being one...more
Linda C
This memoir was an easy read, yet was a very powerful book. Buzz Bissinger writes eloquently about taking a cross-country trip with his brain-damaged adult son Zach, his overpowering love for this man/child, their often difficult relationship, and his attempt, through the trip, to understand his son better.

Zach and his twin brother, Gerry, were born very prematurely in 1983. While Gerry generally was able to overcome any lingering cognitive birth issues (at the time of the road trip, Gerry is in...more
Melinda
So in this book, the author's goal is to be as honest as he possibly can be about having a special needs son. I totally respect this, and I'm in no way trying to judge how hard it would be to parent a special needs child. I've never had to do this. BUT...the author is such a self-centered jerk in so many aspects of his life (not just his parenting), that I found it very difficult to keep reading. He forces his son to take a road trip that the son does not want. In the epilogue at the end of the...more
Julie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly
I know that some people who read this book didn't like Bissinger's self absorption, but I felt this is what made the book honest and real. I don't know if I could be as honest as he was in this memoir; I think he is brave to portray himself in a bad light as much as he does. I think anyone with a special needs child must feel what Bissinger does at some point in their lives (maybe not to the extent that he does, but hell, my kids are "normal" and I can empathize with Bissinger's thoughts). I lik...more
Cindy
I was so excited about this book, because I, too, have an extraordinary son who is very similar to Zach in many ways. But I was very disappointed by the author and his attitude and thoughts and language and actions and the way he wrote about his son and even thought about him.

The day he never wants to think about EVER?? The day his twin sons were born, even 24 years later. Why? Because one is "perfect" and one is not. And that's hard for him to get past.

Get over yourself, Buzz. It's not all ab...more
Sarah
I didn't much care for the father....whiny, ungrateful and his honesty about his feelings about his son were disturbingly cruel. I'm happy that his son will never have to read this book for himself and read his fathers rantings about how awful it is to have a grown child with a mental disability. Bissinger is even embarrassed by his son....you'd think after 20 years, he would have come to grips with it by now. However, I enjoyed the read. Hated the overuse of profanity, especially directed at hi...more
Ann
It's a cliche to say a book is "honest," but something about Bissinger's willingness to put himself--and his relationship with his son with special needs--out there in a compassionate, funny, and challenging way works. As they drive across the country, in a route no one else would take because Zach is only interested in places where he has previously lived and knows people, Bissinger learns. But he doesn't have the heart-warming heart-to-hearts that he expects (and that sometimes being trapped i...more
Linda Berger
No child arrives with an instruction manual. Mr. Bissinger details the roller coaster life of a father who has a child with special needs. A human and honest account about the world of parenthood. Everyone who has seen, loved, liked, or taught a child should with any kind of differences should read this book. In fact, any parent should.
Jane
I really liked this book. It can be a bit hard to read as he is quite honest. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I doubt I would ever read it again. I'm trying to save 5 stars for books I want to read over and over and over. Also, he drives into Texas and "Burkburnet County". Y'all know, Burkburnet is in Wichita County.
Carolyn Wilson
Unbelievably poignant book...sometimes difficult to read, sometimes joyous, sometimes sad. Painfully honest book based on a difficult subject.
Leslie Klingensmith
Lovely. Honest, redemptive, and hopeful.
Sue
Bissinger, best known as the author of the Texas football book Friday Night Lights, which became a movie and a TV show, has twin sons, Gerry and Zach. They were born six weeks too early. Zach, who was born three minutes after Gerry, suffered brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. As a result, he has severe problems. He is developmentally disabled and his social interaction mimics autism. In some areas, such as remembering names and dates, he shows amazing ability, but he can’t read, can’t under...more
Joanne
This is a well-written, enjoyable, and often humorous book about a father really coming to grips with his son as he is: a man with the limitations of brain damage but with some extraordinary gifts as well.

Buzz Bissinger decides to take his adult son, Zach, on a cross-country road trip in order for them to "bond" and have more time together. But a cross-country trip with Zach is very different than one with someone who does not have the peculiarities of a 24 year-old man with autism/savant issues...more
Alexis
I cannot give this book a rating. I picked it up semi-randomly at the library, thinking I'd read a good review of it, but not really remembering much about it.

It would be churlish of me to complain about Bissinger's self-absorption and lack of filter; I had some inkling of it going in. I'll do it anyway, though. The book seesaws between genuine affection for Zach and a constant desire for Bissinger to turn the focus onto himself so he can show the reader exactly what kind of self-hating ass he i...more
Laurie Gold
Buzz Bissinger writes with searing honesty in Father's Day, which ostensibly recounts a road trip taken with his son Zach in 2007. Zach, in his mid-twenties at the time, was born prematurely and with a major oxygen deficiency three minutes after his twin's birth. He suffers from a myriad of mental disabilities and is also a savant when it comes to dates and places. Bissinger suggested the trip as a way to get to know his son, who has an interior life, just one that is inaccessible to those aroun...more
Mandy
I've never read Friday Night Lights (nor any of his other books) and really only read this because it was a book club pick and also because I read a passage of it that was reprinted in my Penn Alumi magazine.

However, I am really glad I read this. Bissinger was brutally honest - something I greatly respect him for- when discussing his feelings involved toward his brain-damaged son- the guilt he feels, the love, the sadness, the embarrassment, the concern, the over-involvement, the un-involvement,...more
Wanchee Wang
In FATHER'S DAY, bestselling author Buzz Bissinger embarks on a road trip with his adult savant son. Zach was born 13 weeks premature and three minutes after his twin brother. Because of those three minutes, his brain was deprived of oxygen, rendering him borderline mentally disabled (his twin suffered developmental delays but is now a school teacher and leads an independent life). He undertakes this trip in an effort to understand his son, to “crack through the surface into his soul.”

He writes...more
Kristin Strong
I picked this up because I heard the author on NPR and was intrigued by the premise: A writer, Buzz Bissinger, takes his developmentally disabled adult son, Zach, on a cross-country road trip, hoping for an epiphany or at least a few discoveries about the son on the way. Woven into the road-book plot are glimpses of the author's and his family's past, the birth of Zach and his twin brother Gerry (when the three minutes between the boys' exits from the womb and even the way they lay within it mad...more
Alyson
Oh, this is a good book. It is a memoir that encapsulates what brain damage can do to those who live with it in their own personal physiology and those who live with and love and care for those who have it. The spectrum is broad. Bissinger has been fiercely honest in his depiction of his own shame and embarrassment, and in his disappointment in his expectations for his son. I understand how this must have been a very difficult yet immensely cathartic book for him to write. His love for Zach brou...more
Stephanie Dinnen-Reini
I alternated between thinking this book was a genuine reflection of the individual and familial big struggles and smaller triumphs of raising a mentally handicapped child/adult or a self-indulgent, pity party. But I've never had to face this unfathomable sort of reality, knowing your infant (twin) sons will most likely die or at best live a severely limited life, so perhaps this is what doing so looks like. One medium-sized part pity, one large part anger and one smaller part redemption.

Bissinge...more
Agatha
Nonfiction. Author’s twin sons were born prematurely in 1983 and, while one is now neurotypical, the second has developmental disabilities which present themselves as a mixed bag of symptoms: low IQ; some savant-type abilities, in calendaring (if you give him a date, he can immediately tell you what day of the week it was) and mapping (he memorizes maps like it’s going out of style); some behavioral autistic tendencies; and more; but they have never really received an absolute diagnosis despite...more
Sera
Jun 11, 2012 Sera rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sera by: Alison
Buzz's journey into the mind and heart of his son actually ends up (like most journeys of discovery) with Buzz examining himself as a father, husband and overall person.

Buzz decides to take his son, Zach, on a road trip to get to know him better. Sounds great, right? Well, the problem is that Zach, at the age of 24, is mentally handicapped and frankly, unable to engage in any type of self-reflection, which makes the journey a bit of a frustrating one for dad. In the end, however, Buzz, is able...more
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H.G. Bissinger has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the National Headliner Award, and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel for his reporting. The author has written for the television series NYPD Blue and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. He lives in Philadelphia.
More about H.G. Bissinger...
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager A Prayer for the City After Friday Night Lights: When the Games Ended, Real Life Began. An Unlikely Love Story. Friday Night Lights A Town, a Team and a Dream

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