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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  598 ratings  ·  90 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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Sentinel
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  598 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Mark Jr.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, library-book, 2019
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
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
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"
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.
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
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.
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
Jake McAtee
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really great stuff.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking and beautiful book.
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..
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.
Farooq Chaudhry
Jul 18, 2021 rated it liked it
This is the first time I’ve read a book about longing for a homeland or sense of place written by someone who lives in the United States but has origins in another Western country (Ireland), so I was interested to see what parallels I would find between this book and authors who write about settling in the US from non Western countries. The differentiating factor here was that it was a book about fatherhood as much as it was about placelessness, with the two being intertwined as the author’s fat ...more
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
Jonathan Gormley
Jan 14, 2021 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Books, Brews, and Tunes
A wonderful memoir about what it’s like to be raised in a single parent household and then later connect with your father. However, it also serves to offer up political philosophy. MBD is a conservative and, regardless of your views, his definitions of culture and a nation were well thought out and left you thinking.

Also you get to expand your Irish history along the way and have it, specifically 1916. MBD ties in the writings of Patrick Pearse to connect to today to talk about the loss of a na
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.)
Jun 18, 2022 rated it liked it
sometimes even i have to tell myself no, but i’m so conflicted because this book is so like “YEAHHHHH MAN- YEAHHH NATIONALISM— YEAHHH DADDY ISSUES BUT AS A MAN” but then there’s quotes like “failing to have children, but failing the children we have” i just… 3.5 on a good day, but 2.5 on an average day.
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
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, heartfelt little book.
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.
Jul 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
Listened to this while on morning walks in Dublin and Cork. A moving tribute.
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
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. ...more
Andrew Figueiredo
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Michael Brendan Dougherty builds a moving memoir through these letters to his father. It's not terribly long, but in retelling Dougherty's life, addresses fatherhood, patriotism, tradition, masculinity, Irish history, and politics (in a sort of indirect way). The author traces evolving relationships his mother, who worked hard to confer authentic Irishness on her son, and his father, largely estranged in Ireland while he grew up. The often strained father-son relationship manifests itself in a c ...more
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
Christian 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
Rob Saunders
Aug 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
The two star rating is, for me, rare. I never let a book get that far. But I digress.

I discovered the author after reading his recent essay, published in the NY Times, with the bombastic title: "Pope Francis Is Tearing the Catholic Church Apart." (See link below.) It piqued my interest. In it, Dougherty defends a rather picayune position against perceived Vatican II "iconoclasm." The essay was erudite and impassioned. I wanted to read more. We seemed to share interests in politics, religion, his
Gerry O'Malley
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a very small book about very big topics. It's supposed to be the story of a path toward reconciliation between father and son, but it is much, much more. Dougherty's father abandoned him (and his mother) before he was born. The author was brought up by his single mother while his father would fly over from Ireland occasionally to disrupt his life. In writing the story of he and his father's strained relationship Dougherty discusses many enormous, timeless themes like the importance of cu ...more
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