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My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son's Search for Home

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  67 reviews
The perfect gift for parents this Father's Day: a beautiful, gut-wrenching memoir of Irish identity, fatherhood, and what we owe to the past.

"A heartbreaking and redemptive book, written with courage and grace."
-J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy

"...a lovely little book."
-Ross Douthat, The New York Times


The child of an Irish man and an Irish-American woman who spl
...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Sentinel
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  427 ratings  ·  67 reviews


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Mark Jr.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, audio, library-book
I picked up this book on the effusive recommendation of Alan Jacobs. At first I thought I might tire of it: though I felt sympathy for a fatherless boy, I confess to my shame that that sympathy did not extend to listening to him moon to his dad about the absence of his dad.

But something happened in the emotional tenor of the book: by making his efforts to recover a father an effort to also recover a sense of nation and people (both of which I take for granted), Dougherty succeeded in sounding no
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Sarah Swann
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This one was ok for me. I liked that it was told in letters, but it started losing me when it went into the history of Ireland. It got boring for me. I enjoyed the evolution of his relationship with his father. I did have a bit of a hard time believing that these were original letters with all of the history lessons and things that seemed a bit odd to include in a letter. But it was fine and thought it was a solid memoir.
Cheryl
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
As far as memoir type books good, this is a really good one. I liked the way that this book was written in the style of letters. I really appreciated the fact that author, Michael shared his heart and soul with this book. The letters really brought me closer to him. This is exactly the way I want to feel and experience when I am reading a book about someone's life.

My heart ached for Michael. Yet, he had a wonderful mother. She loved him. Her inserting bits of Ireland to him when he was a young
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Jeanette
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Despite liking the author, his mother, his father and his life in general- I was underwhelmed by this book. It's written beautifully, but not for me. Looking back with such a heavy tinged brand of "gypped" ire- is just not on my personal wavelength. I don't believe it ever has been either.

Having a childhood and young adulthood that was in majority Irish immigrant community, I thought I would have a better connection. But although I understood Michael, I just couldn't ever get on the "same page"
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Bob
May 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
The only thing worse than an autobiography is an epistolary autobiography consisting of letters one hopes no one would ever send to a loved one (full of pedantic & drearily-stylized recollections that the recipient also participated in as well as wikipedia-style factoids about the Easter Rising that one suspects the recipient, being Irish, knows better than the Irish-American writer). The only thing worse than such an epistolary autobiography is such an epistolary autobiography w/ a political pu ...more
SheAintGotNoShoes
May 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book but I am afraid I didn't. I found it a little boring and very tedious in many spots.

Also unless you have a strong working knowledge of the Easter Rising in Ireland, then a lot of what he writes and the names he mentions will be lost on you.
Jake McAtee
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really great stuff.
Ivan
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking and beautiful book.
Rose
May 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This book should really be called "My Mother Gave Me Ireland." Like much of the book, the title is centered around a missing father, when in fact, most of the poignant and revealing scenes have to do with the author and his mother. In a way, the idea that Dougherty's father is the important figure shows the sexist blindness that he exhibits towards his mother. She exposed him to Irish language, stories, and the Americanized versions of Irish culture. These inform his childhood and understanding ...more
Sugarrr
May 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
I was hoping this was a different kind of memoir, these letters were mostly boring to me. If this book were written like a usual memoir it probably woukd gave been better. Sry I just didnt like it..
Jonathan Maas
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great book - a unique tale

This book breaks you down and then somehow builds you back up again.

Michael Brendan Dougherty grew up without a father, and somehow managed to keep from being that person himself when he grew up.

Yes, he is angry. Yes, he has problems.

But he finds a way through it, and then brings it to us. His father, as it turns out, has a few layers - and not all of them bad.

And Michael Brendan Dougherty stays with it to the end, so that we can see it as well.

And as hard as the t
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Cathi Warren
This is one of the most achingly lovely books I've ever read. Part history, part coming-of-age, part coming to grips, part coming home...to the only home that matters. Regardless of how far you live from the author's background of being the only child of a single mother, abandoned by his father, and searching for the painful answers he needed, you will find a piece of yourself in this book. And maybe find your own way home.

(And there's no substitute for hearing this author read his own words.)
Andrew
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really moving book. I listened to the audio version read by the author. I've followed Michael Brendan Dougherty (pronounced like pizza Dough-erty, not Dow-erty as I'd thought) for quite awhile, and it was interesting thinking back on his public life on twitter and at the American Conservative and trying to place it within the context of this book.

He used to actually follow me on twitter back when it was relatively new and we exchanged barbs a few times. He's since joined the National Review afte
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Steven
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, heartfelt little book.
Michael
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, memoir
Very good. Moving and emotional but also incisive about culture, consumerism and legacy. We are leaving debts to our progeny (if we have any) that they are unprepared to pay.
Alex O'Connor
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful meditation on fatherhood and nationhood. Really resonated with me, and articulated some things that I have felt about my Irish heritage.
Rob Richard
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t normally write reviews and this will not be one. The only thing I can say that I’ve never really read anything quite like it, and I mean that in a good way. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in years.
Neil McGee
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the literary journey through another's eyes. (I was welcomed and never felt more at home in my own skin than the thoroughly enjoyed days in Ireland, enjoyed both the Republic & Northern, but the party scene was a once in a lifetime experience in Belfast) ...more
MG
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
A friend recommended this, who is a literature professor. I admit the writing was quite good, but to what end? Yes, Dougherty had issues stemming from his absent Irish dad, and, yes, the birth of his first child stirred some longings for rootedness, but I am not sure what we were to gain from hearing his literary letter/essays to his dad. He makes peace with his dad and with his Irishishness, but that is simply what it means to mature and the way he does it was not generalizeable to his readers. ...more
Sam Strickland
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dougherty gives an intimate portrait of his life as a son commingled with his hopes for his life as a father. It renders personal a lot of the critiques conservative writers have made of social atomization and family disintegration. I hope it opens up some conversations on the merits and drawbacks of nationalism.
Nancy Head
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's beautiful, profound, philosophical, and poetic. A great read.
René
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
My mom liked this better than I did. I relate to some of the author's story and experience, though his background is less fortunate than mine. If anything, I relate more to his mother, an Irish American who went to live in Ireland when she was a young woman, dedicated herself to Irish causes like Irish nationalism and learning/reviving the Irish language, and became involved with a feckless Irishman who disappointed her and left her pregnant with the author. She still went on to raise her son wi ...more
Edward
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Dougherty has written an autobiograpy in the form of letters to his father who was mostly absent while he was growing up. His parents separated, his father remaining in Ireland and his single-parent mother raising him in the States. There was considerable animosity between the parents, and the son only saw his father infrequently and briefly when he would come to the states. But what the son got from the father was an emotional connection to Ireland..

The author realizes that he is risking senti
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Christian D.  Orr
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the author--and getting an autographed copy of this book--when he spoke at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank in Washington, DC a year ago. At the basic level, it's a superb, deeply moving story about the author's reconnection with both his absentee Irish national father in particular and his Irish roots in general.

But for me, "My Father Left Me Ireland" has also served me very usefully at another level, as an excellent source for two separ
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Robert
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Michael Brendan Dougherty's "My Father Left Me Ireland" is a wonderful and intimate collection of letters written by an American son to his estranged Irish father. Yes, these letters are incredibly personal, but they contain insights into broader topics such as fatherhood, sonship, nationalism, Irish history, generational differences, identity, sovereignty, reconciliation, language, and virtue. Thats no easy task, especially with just over 200 pages to work with.

Dougherty's overall point is to
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Joe
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Good memoir on family and a person's sense of self and nation.

The author, who grew up without his father around, writes to make sense of what that loss meant to himself and his mother. But he also writes about how his father was Irish, and what that meant to him.

The second last chapter is the longest meditation on society in general: in it, the author thinks through why he wants to learn the Irish language. He compares it to the Kiowa language (which, in comparison to the Irish language, is muc
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Scott Pomfret
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Occasionally self-indulgent, but always earnest, this memoir-in-the-form-of-letters-to-his-absent-Irish-father is Dougherty's attempt to make sense of his Irish roots in an age of cynicism and irony. Dougherty's American mother had the misfortune to become pregnant with an Irishman with no interest in starting a family with her. Accordingly, Dougherty grew up in the US with his single mother. His contacts with his father, who married and raised children with someone else in Ireland, were sporadi ...more
Jeff Zell
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I remember a professor of mine years ago talking to us about ethnic identity in America. When his family first came from Germany in the late 1800's and settled in Iowa, they remained German. When the family moved to Nebraska, they were still Germans. Even in the 1990's in Chicago, the family was German. American too. But German still.

I was reminded of that conversation several times in the course of reading this book. The author is the product of a brief union between his American mother and hi
...more
Joshua
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
It was weird when out of nowhere in the middle of this memoir, the author singled out "wonks" as his main foil. He never defined precisely what group he was talking about or why they specifically were the problem, but from context it seemed to be the liberal, multicultural wing of the American political elite.

When Dougherty's being least convincing, these wonks are strawmen -- he insinuates they read to their children only because they've read scientific studies tying the activity to increased
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Jack
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
My Father Left Me Ireland is a wandering and wistful series of letters on fatherhood, heritage, and Irish/American identity, culture, and nationalism. The author was born to an American mother, whose distant roots in Ireland led her to visit the country and meet his father, only for him to exit the picture and stay an elusive figure for the remainder of Dougherty's life. The book takes inspiration in reciting historical lessons from Irish giants Eóin MacNeill and Paddy Pearse, while echoing the ...more
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