I found Taft, by Ann Patchett, at the Library Used Book Store, which was cool because the author seems to think this is the book that no one has read.
I loved it. Better than Bel Canto and most definitely better than The Magician’s Assistant.
I’ll just go ahead and give you the summary from the back:
“John Nickel is a black ex-jazz musician who only wants to be a good father. But when his son is taken away from him, he’s left with nothing but the Memphis bar he manages. Then he hires Fay, a young white waitress, who has a volatile brother named Carl in tow. Nickel finds himself consumed with the idea of Taft – Fay and Carl’s dead father – and begins to reconstruct the life of a man he never met. But his sympathies for these lost souls soon take him down a twisting path into the lives of strangers.”
This is a book about fathers. What it takes to be a good one, and how one might judge a man by knowing his children. I am happy to say that by the time we meet John’s son, Franklin (as opposed to hearing John’s memories of him), we can see that he has been a great dad.
The narrative is interesting in that it moves from John’s first person history to his third person imagining of scenes from Taft’s life with Fay and Carl. You can see him incorporating things that he learns about the kids into his thoughts about their father as the book progresses. I’ve read a lot about women and their natural maternal instincts, but not so much about men being fatherly. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books. Or maybe it took a lady novelist to call it up in a way that made me notice.