Not My Father's Son: A Memoir

  • by Alan Cumming
  • Narrated by Alan Cumming
  • 6 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award, Autobiography/Memoir, 2015
Dark, painful memories can be like a cage. Or, in the case of Alan Cumming, they can be packed away in a box, stuck in the attic to be forgotten. Until one day the box explodes and all the memories flood back in horrible detail. Alan Cumming grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alex Cumming, Alan's father.
When television producers approached Alan to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, he enthusiastically agreed. He hoped to solve a mystery that had long cast a shadow over his family. His maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, had disappeared into the Far East after WWII. Alan's mother knew very little about him - he had been a courier, carrying information between battalions on his motorbike. The last time she saw her father, Alan's mother was eight years old. When she was 13, the family was informed that he had died by his own hand, an accidental shooting.
But this was not the only mystery laid before Alan's feet. His father, whom Alan had not seen or spoken to for more than a decade, reconnected just before filming for Who Do You Think You Are? began. He had a secret he had to share, one that would shock his son to his very core and set into motion a journey that would change Alan's life forever.
With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as the celebrated actor of film, television, and stage. At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always incredibly brave and honest, Not My Father's Son is a powerful story of embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Best Part of Saturday

The way an audio book works is this: you listen to a chapter, maybe two if you're extravagant, then you put down your iPod and get on with what needs doing.

But Alan Cumming doesn't play fair. Not only is he a great reader (I mean, he's Alan Cumming, for crying out loud) but he's also an amazing writer. He has mastered the art of narrative and the chapter ending cliff hanger, and as a result I spent the best part of my Saturday not working, but listening. I tried to listen while I worked, but then I found myself just standing in the middle of my living room with a dust cloth in my hands, listening.

This is not your typical collection of show biz party stories, but a painful memoir of a man coming to terms with his very difficult childhood. This should be a real downer, but somehow it's not. It's a triumph. There is not only honesty in this story, but love -- love for his family, love for the reader, love for the craft of story telling.

Not My Father's Son is simply the most satisfying "listen" I've had all year. Buy it.
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- George Knight

Excellent. Not to be missed.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes! Alan Cumming tells his story openly, without apology or any semblance of self pity. His is not merely a morbid tale. Mr. Cumming is a bright, talented, positive, joyful, loving man. The dark early years of his life are balanced by the accomplishments of his adult years. Both dark and light times unite as Mr. Cumming works through his pain and uncovers the truth about the abuse suffered at the hands of his disturbed father, alongside revelations regarding his maternal grandfather, whose fate had been a long time family mystery. In relating his story, Mr. Cumming switches back and forth from "then" to present time, a marvelous technique. His life plays out like one of those fascinating "Mystery!" shows that he introduces on public TV--suspenseful, dramatic, yet also warm and often humorous,


What was one of the most memorable moments of Not My Father's Son: A Memoir?

Many moments were pivotal. I think the greatest had to do with the ultimate answer as to whether Alan's dad was his real father. I was spellbound when he confronted his dad with the truth.


Which scene was your favorite?

Again, so many to choose from. For me, the most moving was Mr. Cumming's return visit to his childhood home, related near the end. I recently had a similar experience viewing my childhood home. I felt so many strong, conflicting emotions--some good, some painful. My dad had his share of dark and negative parenting moments, but he did sometimes mange to be positive, appreciative and supportive. Still, our family had to keep much to ourselves in order to avoid provoking angry outbursts and deeply painful criticism from my dad, along with occasional overly vigorous corporal discipline. But my dad was an amateur compared to Mr. Cumming's father when it came to physical and emotional abuse.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

See the above. In this case, favorite and most moving scenes are the same for me. (These review questions are somewhat redundant.)


Any additional comments?

I loved listening to Mr. Cumming as he related his story. It wasn't just his charming accent that made him a good narrator, nor his actor's abiltiy to use his voice to best advantage. Mr. Cumming's every word carried sincere emotion. I felt like we were sitting together in private, and he was kindly sharing his life with me. His narration was not a performance. It was a gift.

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- Gotta Tellya

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-07-2014
  • Publisher: HarperAudio