4 out of 4 stars
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Finding Joe Adams by Joe Field is the story of one man’s odyssey to find the father he had never met.
Field was born in 1957 to a single mother. Over the next several years, five more children were born. These were the days of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best when the man was the breadwinner and every mother, a stay-at-home mom. It was extremely difficult for a single woman with an incomplete education to support so many children. It was not a stable home environment, and Field and his siblings paid the price. There often was not enough to eat and the family had to move frequently. In this deprived environment, Field was left to raise himself as best he could.
At first, the lack of a father was his normal: he didn’t know anything different. But the older he got, the more he felt the loss as he struggled to cope with adulthood. His childhood certainly had not prepared him for it! Author Clyde Edgerton wrote: “Fathering is the act of guiding a child to behave in ways that lead to the child’s becoming a secure child in full, thus increasing his or her chances of being happy and fruitful as a young adult.” The loss of a father to guide Field is clearly seen as the struggles of childhood carried over into mistakes and lost opportunities in adulthood.
The thing I liked best about this book is that, despite all the hardship and neglect, Field is not bitter. He’s matter-of-fact: this was his life and these were the mistakes he made along the way. He owns his mistakes and never makes excuses for them. Furthermore, he does not blame his mother. Life was a struggle for her, too, and she did the best she could. I also liked how, once Field finally found his father and his father's other children, everyone was so warm, welcoming, and accepting. Despite the topic, it’s not a dark, depressing story. Field’s attitude throughout is positive and the ending is uplifting.
The book has clearly been carefully edited. There are some mistakes scattered throughout but these have more to do with punctuation than anything else so it is not difficult to understand what is being said. The book would appeal to anyone who enjoys stories celebrating an indomitable human spirit persisting against crippling difficulties. While Field does discuss the role his religious faith played in his life, it is not done in an evangelizing way that would be distasteful to those who do not share his beliefs.
There really wasn’t anything to dislike about this book. I would have enjoyed seeing his growing desire for a fatherly presence developed earlier in the story. However, this is a minor, stylistic difference that is simply a personal preference.
Finding Joe Adams is more than the tale of one man’s search for his father. It is the story of how one young boy clawed his way out of abject poverty and built a life for himself as a respected member of the community. Yes, there were plenty of missteps along the way as he lacked the guiding influence of a father. But, ultimately, it is the saga of triumph over adversity. I am happy to give this book 4 out of 4 stars.
Finding Joe Adams
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