Rebecca's Reviews > Priestdaddy: A Memoir

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
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it was amazing
bookshelves: laugh-out-loud, family-memoirs, theology-religions, absolute-favorites

Warning: this book will blow your mind. (It did mine, anyway.) When you’re not snorting, sniggering or guffawing, you’ll be marveling at how Patricia Lockwood is incapable of producing a dull sentence. Every paragraph, if not every line, of Priestdaddy contains a turn of phrase so fresh and surprising that wouldn’t have occurred to the average reader in years of pondering. Yet it reads as utterly natural, even effortless. This is evidence of a poet’s mind sparking at high voltage and taking an ironically innocent delight in dirty and iconoclastic talk.

It’s a memoir of growing up in a highly conservative religious setting, but this is not Evangelical Christianity as you or I have known it. For one thing, her father converted to Catholicism after he was already married, and a special dispensation was required for him to become a priest. Not only is he a married Father (of five children), but he wanders around in his underpants, watches violent movies and make horrific noises with guitars. Lockwood glories in her father’s quirks* but never reduces him to a caricature; the same goes for the rest of her family, including her husband Jason, whom she met online in the days before that was commonplace.

The immediate inspiration for this book was moving back in with her parents in Missouri as a married woman, sharing the rectory with them and a very serious seminarian while her poetry career suddenly and finally took off (to the extent that a poetry career actually can), but the narrative ranges widely around her past and present. Though she highlights the absurdities of fundamentalism, she is still strangely fond of it as her home and source (“even now I could not tell you which curves of that circle were harm and which were haven”).

So while some might find the book’s language heretical, I found it to be the perfect blend of reverent and irreverent, the mark of someone who has considered faith deeply but now holds it lightly. (“People do sometimes accuse me of blasphemy, which is understandable and which is their right. But to me, it is not blasphemy, it is my idiom. It’s my way of still participating in the language I was raised inside, which despite all renunciation will always be mine.”) It’s so hard to look back at a life of extremes without bitterness, so I’m impressed at what the author has achieved here. Many will pick the book up for laughs (it won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, after all), and it certainly is uproariously funny, but it also tugs at the heartstrings. It’s the sort of book I wish I had written about my religious upbringing.

*Meet Greg Lockwood (you’ll never forget him):

“‘Disintegration of the family unit!’ my father shouted, apropos of nothing—I suspected he hadn’t really been listening—and then disappeared upstairs to fondle his guns and drink cream liqueurs in secret, which was his way of dealing with grief.”

“My father despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance.”

“my father has always held that the female sex’s primary mode of transportation is gallivanting
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Reading Progress

March 1, 2019 – Started Reading
March 1, 2019 – Shelved
March 1, 2019 – Shelved as: laugh-out-loud
March 3, 2019 – Shelved as: family-memoirs
March 3, 2019 – Shelved as: theology-religions
March 30, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 12, 2019 – Shelved as: absolute-favorites

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Mrs. Danvers This is immediately moving to the top of my TBR based on your review. Brava!


Rebecca Mrs. Danvers wrote: "This is immediately moving to the top of my TBR based on your review. Brava!"

I'm delighted to hear that :) I had a suspicion I would love this so put it on my birthday wish list last year, but only managed to read it this March. It jumped onto my favorites list right away.


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