Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: PregMANcy by Christian Piatt

PregMANcy by Christian Piatt is available here. You can visit Christian’s website here.

by Ben Howard
I don’t have kids. Even more, I’m rather ambivalent about the entire idea of having kids. So you might ask: what am I doing reading, much less reviewing, a book about pregnancy and fatherhood?

To be honest, I don’t know, but I’m glad I did.

In his memoir-cum-parenting book, PregMANcy, author Christian Piatt mines his personal relationships as well as his own psyche to explore issues of fatherhood, parenting, childhood, fear, faith, love, and marriage all wrapped within the narrative cocoon of his wife’s pregnancy with the couple’s second child.

When I started the book, I expected the pregnancy to take center stage. However, I was surprised to find that other than a few particular areas, the opening chapter and (spoilers!) the birth of the baby, the pregnancy was used a more of a narrative frame. This framing gives the story a distinct beginning, middle and end, the book is even divided into trimesters, and propels the reader through the book on the waves of a narrative.

However, even though this book contains a narrative, and an interesting one at that, it is not a book about a narrative. This is a book about relationships and fear and how love overcomes fear.

The central relationship in this book is one of fathers and sons, in particular Christian and his son Mattias, but also Christian’s relationship to his own father and his own past.

Piatt represents his relationship with his son as one filled with tenderness, love, and pride. When his 
son asks a direct question, he typically receives a direct, honest answer even if that answer leads to more awkward questions. Piatt talks about his son so lovingly, even when talking about the frustrations and quirks of their relationship, that it only heightens the level of vulnerability and fear he feels about the concept of fatherhood.

That fear reveals itself when Piatt talks about his own past struggles and the broken relationship with his own father. The picture we are given in totality shows the valiant and valorous attempt of a man to maturely confront his own personal demons while simultaneously raising a son who he wishes to both protect and shape into a virtuous man.

Each exploration into Piatt’s fears and frustrations, whether they involve his relationship with his son, his wife, his future daughter, or any other aspect of his life, feels like a refreshing breath of honesty and vulnerability. He invites you freely into his story and in the process allows you to explore your own.

My only critique of Piatt’s work is his occasional need to tag a moral onto the end of a chapter. At times it felt as if Piatt was self-consciously aware that his memoir wasn’t “Christian enough” for a Christian publishing house. As a result, several of the chapters end in a quick moral sentiment that feels like an unnecessary addition. It’s not that the points are disconnected from the narrative, simply that they are conveyed in the narrative flow so well that there is no reason for overt exposition.

I thoroughly enjoyed Piatt’s book and would recommend it to any expectant father or for that matter expectant mothers. So little is written authentically exploring both the joys and apprehensions of fatherhood, that it can’t help but be a welcome voice in the conversation of what it means to have a child.

However, even more than those expecting children, I would recommend Piatt’s book to anyone interested in the emotional dynamics of a family. Basically, if you really like the show Parenthood, but want to occasionally scatter a laugh amidst your constant sobbing, you’ll enjoy this book thoroughly.

I can’t wait to see what territory Piatt explores in the future.


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