Review

My Father’s Tears: And Other Stories

by John Updike

MY FATHER’S TEARS is the last in a sterling lineup of
stories from the master storyteller John Updike, who passed away in
January 2009. With 18 tales in all, the book has a wide range of
characters, themes, times and settings. But all of them have a
common thread --- that of delving into the human spirit and
capturing the emotion of the moment. And they were previously
published in various magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly,
Harper’s
and The New Yorker.

Most of the main characters are male, but there are some of the
female persuasion. Themes include aging, reminiscing, love lost and
religion, among others. Times range from the Depression era to that
of the modern-day world. Updike uses some fictional places in
Pennsylvania to mirror those of his hometown of Shillington. The
settings also include the state of Florida and such exotic locales
as India, Spain, Italy and Morocco

The first story, titled “Morocco,” takes place in
that country and is based on a true story from events that occurred
there in 1969. “The Walk with Elizanne” revolves around
a high school reunion where two former high school sweethearts meet
up after 50 years. A young child is the main character of three
entries: “The Guardians,” “The Laughter of the
Gods” and “Kinderszenen.” Love and its
imperfections are the themes of “Free,” “Delicate
Wives,” “The Apparition,” and
“Outage.”

An interesting and sobering piece, “Variations of
Religious Experience,” explores the concept of religion and
how it affects our thoughts and actions. The story centers on the
horrific events of 9/11 and is told from the perspectives of a man
watching the Twin Towers collapse from a distance as he looks out
an apartment window, one of the hijackers who flies his jet into a
tower, an office worker who is trapped in one of the towers and
leaps to his death, and a passenger on the doomed plane that
crashes in Pennsylvania. Each views his religion (or lack thereof)
differently, and their reactions are varied as the events
unfold.

Prior to reading this volume of short stories, my exposure to
Updike’s writings had been limited to a couple of volumes
from the Rabbit series. Dedicated fans will enjoy MY
FATHER’S TEARS, while newcomers can expand their enjoyment by
perusing the many other short stories and novels he has produced.
All readers should cherish this latest collection as it will be the
last by this renowned and prolific author, unless new ones are
discovered posthumously.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on January 12, 2011

My Father’s Tears: And Other Stories
by John Updike

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307271560
  • ISBN-13: 9780307271563