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I had every intention of loving Son of a Midnight Land. After all it gathers all my favorites: adventure, living off the land, memoir, resilience after hardship, courage to face the past, present, and future.
And the book does indeed have some of that. But not much. Mostly, it's a book about Atz telling us over and over and over, "The reason I'm so abusive is, well, it's my dad's fault. All of it!"
I did expect hard memories, but who hasn't had a rough childhood? Atz treats his wives, each of his children (and oh my, is he proud that he's Jewel's father, or what?) so abusively it's horrible. My husband told me that the man is showing courage for owning up to what he did, who he is, in such a public way, so I started cutting Atz some slack. But the more the book went on, the more whining I endured. He wasn't abusive, his "hand was filled with the devil". His children had a hard time when he was beating them, and he didn't want to be like his own father, so he stopped beating and started grabbing them by their shirts, shaking them until they chattered and shook. And so he stopped that, sometimes, and stuck to shaming and berating. And in an open letter to his kids as a whole, he apologizes for hitting them (not the rest) but then says, "Oh I failed; I was supposed to make you see your failings."
Yes, there's some strength in the writing, some sheer poetry. He is, after all, a master storyteller. And when he describes butchering at an age when he was far too young to see it, it's the harshest, most honestly brutal thing I've ever heard. VERY strongly and well-written.
But for the most part, Atz is a man who says, "I've done wrong, it was my dad's fault."
He does show some insight. I only hope it's come early enough so that his grandson feels the honest love that's there.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful
What disappointed you about Son of a Midnight Land?
As a fan of the show, I guess I expected much more. I have never written a book review, but feel compelled with this one. This book seemed to have a hidden agenda while exposing very little about life on the frontier.
What was most disappointing about Atz Kilcher’s story?
I believe Atz's main intention was to make amends with his children through this book. While openly taking accountability for his misdeeds, he tends to overly rely on his unfortunate upbringing and treatment by his father. I guess I have a hard time respecting the disrespect of the deceased in effort to find support from your offspring. In short, he threw his father under the bus in order to improve his own family relations. As someone born and raised as a farm kid in the Rockies, this simply isn't the "Cowboy Way."
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
Atz read this book as the victim. I think he could have told the story more forthright.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Son of a Midnight Land?
Most of the personal dialogue directed to his children explaining his emotional turmoil.
Any additional comments?
I am glad I bought the book. I enjoy the romanticism of the show and wanted to learn more. Unfortunately life of the Kilcher homestead isn't what I hoped it would be. Rounding up the same 30 cows for "cattle drives" along the beach really isn't homesteading. It's an act. Perhaps I like the idea of the Kilcher homestead more than the reality of it..
2 of 3 people found this review helpful