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Not My Father's Son

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  41,764 ratings  ·  4,724 reviews
Dark, painful memories can be put away to be forgotten. Until one day they all flood back in horrible detail.

When television producers approached Alan Cumming to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show, he hoped to solve the mystery of his maternal grandfather's disappearance that had long cast a shadow over his family. But this was not the only mystery laid before Al
Paperback, 292 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Dey Street Books (first published October 1st 2014)
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Pat I found the book absolutely fascinating! If you had a childhood like his, then you might be a bit obsessed about it, but I didn't find him so much obs…moreI found the book absolutely fascinating! If you had a childhood like his, then you might be a bit obsessed about it, but I didn't find him so much obsessed, as someone trying to work out his issues. The book was not the typical bio of a star, but rather parts of his life that interconnected and what he took from those experiences. I didn't find him to be a "sad case" at all, just an everyday person trying to find meaning in a terrible situation that has haunted him for decades and now he finally has closure. Well done, Mr. Cumming!(less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  41,764 ratings  ·  4,724 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
Settle in for a story that is appalling and entertaining, hopeful and disappointing, reflective and sometimes ephemeral.
Life is disappointing? Forget it.
It is a good thing that this advice was not followed. Remembering seems more the thing.
We have no troubles here. Here life is beautiful.
Ummm, not so much. And now, Meine Damen und Herren, Mes Dames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ich bin eur confrencier, je suis votre compere…I am your host.
This memoir blew me away. I had no idea Alan Cumming had such a miserable childhood. After finishing this I wanted to give the guy a hug.

I knew little about the book when I downloaded it* — I chose it because I like Alan Cumming as an actor, and he has that charming Scottish accent, so I thought it would be a good audiobook.

Alan was a wonderful narrator, but this memoir was quite dark. It tells how Alan's father terrorized and abused him, and of Alan's search to learn more about his grandfather,
Elyse  Walters

Alan Cumming, Scottish and American actor, singer/performer, author, and activist....
survived the most horrific childhood from brutal emotional and physical abuse. His father who would inflict harm on him with no warning.

This is a very powerful audiobook - hard to pull away from. It's a suspenseful memoir.
Alan doesn't hold back. He said that his difficult childhood taught him how to act by needing to suppress his own emotions and feelings around his father when he was a little b
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Sometimes people do you a favour when they drop out of your life.”

Alan Cumming on digging deep for new memoir 'Not His Father's Son' - Los Angeles Times

The scars of an abusive childhood form the backdrop for Alan Cumming's : Not My Father's Son. I really enjoy memoirs, but I sometimes have to question why I enjoy them. Scenes from Cumming's childhood were brutal; in addition to outright violence, his father knew just what to do to make sure Cumming and his brother never received approval or validation for anything they did. This is not a childhood we would wish on anyone. Does C
Greta G
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Happiness erased
Clouded by fear, humiliation, pain
Darkens my mind
Irrationality, rage, violence
Anxious, never relax
Shutting down, never speak
Joy suppressed, hurts less
Tension, humiliation
Become nothing
Give nothing away
Darkness, silence, fear
Never safe
Navigating a minefield
Failings, feeling guilty
Worthless, loath myself
"I'm sorry"
Silent house, facades
Denial, never rely
Unresolved pain, hurt
My own mind, my own opinion
Gates open, trickle, flood
Fill my head, explode
Sadness, deep de
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This is an incredible memoir read by the author with such an engrossing story of his damaged childhood and his ability to rise above it. I have always admired Mr. Cumming but now I know so much about him and his story is definitely one not to be missed! I highly recommend this audiobook.
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review of the audio read by Alan Cumming.

Just a few thoughts I have to get down. Audios read by the author are always among my favorites. There is an honesty there that I connect with, and that was even more true with Alan Cumming's reading of Not My Father's Son. This was a deeply personal account of Alan's childhood, his harsh and violent father, his loving mother (I loved her name "Mary Darling"), and his forgotten and misunderstood grandfather. This is a solid, heartfelt memoir. Well-done.
Glenn Sumi
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
The puckishly charismatic actor Alan Cumming (The Good Wife, Spy Kids, Cabaret) delves into his horrific childhood and uncovers secrets from his family's history in this brave, beautifully written and honest memoir. The book is anything but a typical celebrity tell-all.

Through a BBC genealogy reality TV show called Who Do You Think You Are?, Cumming learns about his maternal grandfather – who died under mysterious circumstances in his 30s – at the same time that his physically and emotionally ab
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
“Sometimes people do you a favour when they drop out of your life.”


I’m struggling with my words here, so I’m just going to simplify them. Alex Cumming (Alan’s dad) was a raging, abusive asshole. Astonishingly, Alan Cumming is not. He really ought to be, growing up in Hell, instead he seems to have come through to the other side as a pretty fantastic fella. I’d love to tell him that in person and give him a hug.

Growing up in a situation with a man who could (and would) blow his top at the
Stacey B
Jun 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love this guy!!

My review would be redundant if I included the same remarks I agree with from the others written. Those share a common theme of " a dark book" - which it is.
To watch Cumming's perform on stage and smile the way he does- who would guess about his extremely disturbing upbringing.
When I read books about people I have gotten to know through media / stage, it becomes very personal with me.
I knew ahead of time this was not going to be a pleasant read, but I gotta tell you how
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
To be honest with you, I can’t explain why I picked up “Not My Father’s Son”, but it seemed intriguing to me. If you are a fan of Mr. Cumming (full disclosure, I have seen him in very little) and are thinking this book is a celebrity autobiography, it isn’t. It focuses on two incidents in his life, his relationship with his father, and his search for information about his enigmatic maternal grandfather. The book is really two narratives: one being abut Alan’s awful relationship with his dad, not ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming is a Scottish actor who's probably best known in America for hosting "Masterpiece Theater" on PBS and playing Eli Gold on "The Good Wife."

Alan Cumming as Eli Gold on 'The Good Wife'

He's also a very successful stage and movie actor, now happily married to his husband Grant.

Alan Cumming (right) and his husband Grant

Alan's life wasn't always so bright though. In this memoir Alan talks about growing up with a father, Alex Cumming, who was physically, psychologically, and
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

I've heard only good things about Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming, and it turned out as expected: a powerful, beautifully narrated story.

Though I obviously knew of Alan Cumming and his work, I knew very little about his personal life before I started this audiobook. I had no idea he had such a traumatic childhood, and I found myself in awe of his resilience.

The story told in this book is just a segment of Alan's interesting life (thanks, Wikipedia!), but it focuses on a very painful part
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Will Byrnes
Shelves: bio-memoir, read-2015
After reading Will Byrne's review of this book and then watching Cumming's episode of Who Do You Think You Are on YouTube, I just had to settle in with the book for myself. I've enjoyed Alan Cumming in various performances for quite some time and it is now very interesting to learn more of the whole person and his earlier life.

The world really opened up for him as he grew up and, especially during the year when he was filming the genealogy show, he learned more than he ever would have expected a
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Finally, the scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable.”

Wow. I think everyone is surprised by how hard and painful was Alan's childhood. He grew up in a lair where fear was part of the routine, where one had to learn to read expressions like a book, so it was possible to be ready - was it possible to ever be ready, though? - to what was coming. Aggression and humi
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"True life is stranger than fiction." This is not your standard celebrity memoir. This book centers around the genealogy tv show he hosts "Who Do You Think You Are" where he asked the tv show to help him find out more about his grandfather, who had mysteriously disappeared, and who Alan had never met. As the tv show begins investigating into Alan's family tree, his father whom he had not spoken to in 16 years, tells him a bombshell news that shook him to his core and effected everything he belie ...more
Blargh. This is another review that I just don't know how to start. I've typed and deleted about 6 different versions already, so I've given up and now THIS is how I'm starting it. That's the way it goes sometimes. It's after midnight and I'm determined to finish this review so I don't have it hanging over my head any longer.

So. Alan Cumming. It might be surprising to some of you, but I've seen very little that he's been in, yet for some reason, I have nothing but positive associations in my mi
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographs
An autobiography by Alan Cumming.

What a journey this turned out to be. A man whose early life reads like a horror story the horror being dished out by his abusive, obviously mentally ill, father. But who in later life finds fame and, most importantly, happiness.

The journey that you will take with Alan whilst reading this book will lay bare all of your emotions, some good and some decidedly unpleasant.

Whilst reading this book I couldn’t help thinking how often this scenario is repeated in the li
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

Re-read via audio book (finally got my hands on it):)

Side note: First timeI saw/heard of Alan Cumming was as Nightcrawler in X2.. I've seen him in things on and off over time but never followed him like I did withc certain bands/authors but he's been on my radar.
Just as compelling and heaetwrenching, and at times heartwarming as the first time around.. even more so with Alan narrating itself. His voice is so beautiful and soothing/calming.

Not to overuse the word but still amazed he put this
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this memoir which I listened to via Overdrive. Alan Cumming does not tell the story of his stardom but rather of his hard upbringing with a physically and mentally abusive father, bullying at school and the search for answers regarding his missing maternal grandfather. Luckily he has a wonderful and supportive family including his mother (Mary Darling - you have to love the name), brother, grandmother and husband, etc. I loved listening to his Scottish accent! He seems to be a v ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Picked this up on a whim when I was skimming the new books at the library, and read it in an evening. Half the memoir is the same story told on Alan's episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, about his maternal grandfather, a man who was a bit of a family mystery, never returning to England after World War II despite having a wife and children.

The other half is about his abusive childhood with a violent father, and how that has effected him today. He also talks about how he has worked on it - thera
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty disappointing. Cumming clearly had a lousy childhood and I found him at his most articulate and interesting talking about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, but the rest of it just made me dislike him. It seems bizarre to criticize a memoir for being too self-involved, but that's definitely what this felt like. There was a focus on minute details here that felt self-absorbed, like we were supposed to care about what happened at what time, and which episode preceded ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Alan Cumming, so I was really looking forward to this. However, I'm generally suspicious of celebrity biographies, so I approached it with cautious optimism. By the end of the book, I just loved him more.

Not so much a biography but a memoir focusing on Cumming's reaction to being told that his father was not, in fact, his father. An appearance on the UK's Who Do You Think You Are was meant to reveal the mystery behind what happened to Cumming's grandfather on his mother's side. Instead,
I listened to the audiobook NOT MY FATHER'S SON: A Family Memoir written and read by Alan Cumming. Alan Cumming's father Alex was a man who held his family hostage, who meted out violence with a frightening ease. Alex was the dark, enigmatic heart of Cumming family life. But he was not the only mystery. Alan's maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, had disappeared to the Far East after the Second World War. Curious to explore this mystery, Alan committed to filming an episode of the BBC's 'WHO DO ...more
Edward Lorn
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Alan Cumming and celebrity biographies
Recommended to Edward by: Audible
This was an audiobook listen for me, and I loved every minute of Cumming's narration. I have an affinity for Scottish and Australian accents (Cumming is Scottish). I like the way they sound, be it from the mouths of men or women. I have no idea why. I've also enjoyed more of Alan Cumming's movies and plays than I've hated, so I figured my one biography this year would be his. (I read at least one bio a year. Once again, I have no idea why. Oddly enough, I usually read them in February, too. Weir ...more
May 30, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[3+] I admire Alan Cumming's acting and was drawn to this memoir for its unusual premise - his "investigation" into his own life. He vividly describes the abuse he suffered from his father as well as his discoveries about the life of his maternal grandfather. I liked this memoir but it didn't blow me away - perhaps because I am somewhat inured to memoirs about abuse. The audio was very well read (in his Scottish brogue) by the author. ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sofia by: Maya
Cumming let me in on an intimate family journey he undertook. His journey to further understand his roots and what to do with what he found. I found it intimate, interesting, touching and emotional, enough that it made me revisit parts of my own childhood and my thoughts on those periods. I loved his voice, his sense of humour, his honesty and his philosophy of life. I'm glad he is his own man.

Fits into slot 33 of my reading challenge - A book set in two different time periods
I went into this book without preconceived expectations. I have never seen the actor / author on TV or stage. My sole contact with him is having heard his narration of A.J. Hartley's Macbeth. Both the narration and the retelling of Shakespeare’s story were very good.. In Not My Father's Son the author reads his own book and tells about events in his own life. I knew only that he was gay and that he had been physically abused by his father.

We are given a view into a dysfunctional family. However
When you Google Alan Cumming the search leads to such descriptors as:
“Scottish actor” “singer/ performer”
and headlines
“I act, I snap, I conquer” and
“I’ll drink to that – Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs”

What you don’t expect to find when you crack open Not My Father’s Son is such sheer and utter honesty. Imagine the courage it took to not only face emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father but to expose himself to the masses in this way. To say the least, this is no
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not only not his father's son, and not only a really interesting and appealing actor, but Alan Cumming is an openly bisexual celebrity. Not too many openly bisexual men in the world of fame it seems, unless I've missed something.

But I have to be honest: I picked up this audiobook because the price was appealing and I like the guy's acting. Coming across it like I did was a happy accident because I really enjoyed it. What a treat that Mr. Cumming read the book himself, and that he's darn good at
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Alan Cumming, OBE, is a Scottish-American stage, television and film actor. His roles have included Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United, and Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy. He has also appeared in independent films like The Anniversary Party, which he wrote, directed and starred; and Ali Selim's Sweet Land for which he won an Independent Spirit award as producer.

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