Mysteries of My Father

Mysteries of My Father FLEMING, Thomas

In 1998, a man probing France s Argonne Forest with a metal detector discovered a gold onyx ring. On the inside was the inscription "From Mayor Frank Hague to Sheriff Teddy Fleming, 1945," which helped track down the owner, historian and novelist Thomas Fleming. Thirty years earlier, he had lost the ring while exploring the blood soaked battlefield where his father had won a lieutenant s commission in World War I. Fleming flew to France and had the ring placed back on his finger, in the exact place where he had lost it.

Back home, Fleming realized it would take more than a trip to France to understand the man who had originally accepted that ring and the mayor who had given it to him. Teddy Fleming represented something large and formidable that the writer had tried to deal with in a half dozen novels. Was it finally time to confront the whole truth without the disguises of fiction?

In Mysteries of My Father, we watch Teddy Fleming rise in Frank Hague s bare knuckled Irish American political machine, which dominated Jersey City and the state of New Jersey for thirty two years. Thomas Fleming tells both the public and the private stories—such as his parents violent quarrels, his mother s shame at being Irish, and her embittered attempts to make her son an antagonist against the man she publicly admired and privately disdained.

Again and again, the son found himself baffled by his discoveries about his father, including the heartbreaking poem "My Buddy" that this tough laconic man hung on his bedroom wall and "The Guy in the Glass," hidden in his bureau drawer, about how every man "in his struggle for self" must somehow keep his self respect. At the heart of the drama is a riveting cry that the sixteen year old son elicited from Teddy Fleming when he said he did not love him: "You and your brother. You re all I ve got."

From Ireland s County Mayo to Jersey City s City Hall, Fleming s gripping narrative encapsulates the pride and the pain of being Irish in the first decades of the twentieth century. More than a history of the Irish in America, more than a family saga, Mysteries of My Father opens your heart to a son s struggle to survive and ultimately heal his wounds through hard won understanding and love.


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Turner Publishing Company
352 pp.

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