Author Mary Gordon’s father died when she was seven years old. For a long time, this fact seemed to be a defining aspect of her life. She was happy to think of him in terms of the man who loved her “more than God” and then disappeared. But thirty years later, she begins a quest to find out who her father really was.
Her search takes her to libraries, archives, and her own memory, but what she learns on this journey begins to test her credulity and her view of the man. Her many discoveries included the fact that he was actually an immigrant, rather than a man born in Ohio; he was a Jew who became an anti-Semite; he was a convert to Catholicism who wrote devout Catholic poetry; he was also a publisher of pornography.
In Ohio, where he grew up, she can find nobody who remembers him, or those who think they do, but have negative reactions to him. She discovers many facts that led to her realization that the man she thought was her father was a fictionalized version of a man. She has to decide what to do with this conflicting information.
Even her own mother is not a reliable source of memories, as she is losing hers. She scarcely can distinguish one event from another.
Throughout The Shadow Man: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father, I felt a connection to Gordon’s quest, in that we desperately need to understand who we came from in order to completely know ourselves. Those defining connections can make or break us.
The first part of the story was tedious and not as interesting as the later parts. I especially enjoyed the sections that included her mother and their history together—a piece to the puzzle that completed the whole picture for me.
Because I enjoy this author’s work, I was curious to know more about her history. This book filled it in very well, and except for the beginning parts, portrayed a compelling family portrait. Four stars.