When you’re younger it’s easy to think that fathers are infallible. Maybe it’s just because they’re so tall, but fathers seem perfectly capable of chasing down monsters when you’re a kid. They’re there to be goofy with you, to help support your dreams, and to help you grow into the best adult that you can be. But there are times when fathers fall short of who they’re supposed to be.
Maybe it’s apparent when you’re a kid. Maybe you don’t realize until you’re older, but eventually that shoe has to drop.
Dads are people too and even if you love your father, he’s probably just as flawed as everyone else.
So in honour of Father’s Day and all those dads with all their flaws, here are my top 6 books with flawed father figures.
6) Atticus Finch
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
Atticus Finch, until recently, was seen as this unrelenting paragon of justice. He was stern and perhaps a little out of his depth when it came to dealing with his children, but reading his interactions in To Kill A Mockingbird you could tell that he cared about them deeply. Atticus Finch was a deeply principled man who had progressive values and fought against tyranny and racism. He was a man you could look up to, even idolize like his daughter, Scout, did.
But then Scout grew up and we see more of Atticus than we really wanted to in Go Set A Watchman. We learn that while Atticus is still principled and devoted to justice, he was never there to be the bridge for race relations. We watch Scout struggle with the realization that a major foundation of her life is crumbling away and wait to see her decide what to do about it.
5) Samuel Hawley
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Maybe some people would put Samuel Hawley further down on the list. After all, he does have a criminal past that could put his daughter in a whole heap of trouble. He also does something unspeakable which I won’t spoil since we learn about it late in the novel. But for all his flaws, for all his inability to speak candidly or his lack of knowledge about living a normal life, Samuel Hawley does the best he can for his daughter, Loo. Most everything he’s done since she was born was to protect her in some way, shape, or form.
Hawley wants more than anything to make sure that she never has to go through what he’s been through and that’s admirable. Even if we see him failing at giving Loo the life that she wanted or struggling with how she’s growing up, Hawley tries and that’s why he’s so high up on this list.
4) Patrick Thomas
The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin
Bet you weren’t expecting a Baby-sitter’s Club book to be on this list, were you? For such a wholesome series, the parents are all very human and surprisingly flawed. I could go through an entire list of parents who have some sort of issue (I’m looking at you, Mr. Spier), but Patrick Thomas takes the cake for fathers. Kristy wants nothing more to be able to see her father. After all, her birthday is coming up and she hasn’t talked to him in so long.
It’s generally accepted that Patrick Thomas is neglectful. Even if things get in the way, he could at least call his children on their birthdays. He sends money when he can and sometimes he remembers to make contact, but it’s never in a meaningful way.
3) Jesse Robertson
The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
From one neglectful father to another, Jesse Robertson is a real piece of work. Even though he’s in his children’s lives more than Patrick Thomas is, he’s lower down on the list because of his cowardice. Kristy and her brothers are well taken care of by their mother, but Jesse’s kids don’t have a mother to take care of them. Instead, they have an aging grandfather who is starting to lose his ability to take care of them and a neighbour who checks in on them once in awhile.
Jesse still wants to run away even when his son, Brandon, has been in and out of the hospital. He still wants to leave his teenage daughter, Hannah, to fix everything. Jesse is a mess and he’ll be a mess for a long time, no matter how much support he has.
2) Jin Cho
Shelter by Jung Yun
Kyung Cho hates his father, Jin. From the first pages of the novel, that much is apparent. Jin Cho is someone who was abusive for years and who wanted the best for himself and his family at the cost of the mental health of his family. He beats his wife who in turn beats their son and he tells himself that he does these things for the sake of his family.
Even though he’s repented, there’s this lingering feeling that he’s a time-bomb just waiting to go off again. And this time, now that Kyung is grown up, who will be the target of the anger that’s building within Jin? Who will shelter the family from his rage?
1) James Piper
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Minor spoiler coming up. It’s revealed pretty early on in the novel, but if you want to go into this novel spoiler free, avert thy eyes.
So James Piper is the most flawed of the fathers on this list. He might be the most flawed father I’ve ever read about. It’s hard to think of anyone else off the top of my head. From the beginning, we know that something’s a little bit strange about James Piper. When he chooses Materia as his wife, she is a 13 year old girl and quickly gets disgusted with her when she becomes pregnant.
And when his other children are born, he seems to level out, but as the girls mature… He starts to have sexual desires for the eldest one, Kathleen. The only redeeming feature about James is that he tries to resist his urge to have sex with his own child while she’s young. It doesn’t make him a good person, it doesn’t excuse the way that he treats his wife, or the destruction he rains down upon his family in general. James Piper, complicated figure that he is, is also a monster and the most flawed father that I can think of.
Know any that I missed?
Comment below and let me know!