The Daddy DiariesThe Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d give The Daddy Diaries a solid 3.75. If you’re familiar with the Australian TV series House Husbands, Joshua Braff’s "take" on the subject could easily become the U.S. adaptation.

What I liked: The tender scenes between diarist Jay and his depressed son, Alex. The fact that the economic role reversal between Jay and wife Jackie is not a source of friction—Jay is secure enough in his manhood to appreciate his wife for who she is and what she brings to their family. He supports her work (which entails a good amount of travel) by functioning as the dedicated stay-at-home dad. I also found it a nice—as well as realistic—touch that Jay, as primary parent, is not so keen on the idea of making a third child, despite his wife’s claim that “someone is missing from their dinner table.” Finally, DD posits an arguable social angle about parents’ vs. children’s rights when it’s not in the best interests of a minor child to live with her parents or follow their misguided mandates.

Not so Much: I found the character development to be somewhat flimsy. I would have liked to see the author focus more on the multiple causes of Alex’s depression (teenage “angst”/family history/the move to Florida, etc.) and less on the St. Petersburg “parental party scene.” Alex’s mental health and the parent/teen relationship are the grounding notes of this story, and are far more compelling than the numerous instances (and there are too many of them) where Jay “falls victim” to impromptu partying and drinking. In my world, responsible parents don’t run off to bars at the slightest twist of an arm—especially when, for all intents and purposes, they are functioning as single parent. Childhood friends and siblings don’t just “pop up” unannounced from several states’ distance and demand that you go out drinking with them. Rich divorcees don’t spontaneously open their homes to scores of parents and kids for flirtatious poolside antics. Maybe that’s the way they do things down in Florida, but personally, Jay’s vulnerability to such distractions lowered my respect for him.

That said, The Daddy Diaries is a book you have to finish to fully appreciate. The funniest scenes are in the first third, and the most emotionally-charged ones appear toward the end. My daughter gave me this book for Christmas figuring I would like it, and she was right. All in all, it's a sensitive and worthwhile family drama by a fellow independent Bay Area author.

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