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Book Review - Who Says Life is Fair?

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Who Says Life is Fair by James C. Wilson
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Fathers who are estranged from their children can find themselves with great difficulty in life. But that estrangement does not have to lead to a life full of pain and regret. In his book Who Says Life is Fair?, James C Wilson offers hope to fathers who find themselves with a nonexistent relationship with their adult children. Divorced fathers who have been estranged or alienated from their children can continue to live happy and joyful life all the while hoping for reconciliation.

The Background

Author Jim Wilson has created a fictional account of a man named Phil Temple. This detailed account of Temple's life is based on a story told to Wilson by his friend Jack Hamilton. Hamilton's life was scarred by an abusive and painful marriage which was blessed by two children. His long-time relationship with his children, particularly during their early years, is filled with wonderful memories. During that time, he loved his children, and he still does. However, the painful divorce and subsequent changes in Hamilton's life have caused his children to withdraw from him. But the most important lesson of Hamilton's life is that life for a divorced father does not have to be defined by the relationship or lack thereof with his adult children.

The Story

Wilson's fictional account of Phil Temple's life and times is in many ways expanded and embellished saga of Hamilton's life. Phil Temple is a prototypical "everyman" from the earliest days of his life. The second woman he ever loved, Darla, became his wife and for fourteen years, Phil worked hard to create a marriage that would endure. But Darla's mental health issues, which were not clear to Phil in the early years, caused her to be emotionally abusive and demeaning. The constant attacks on his self-esteem, her fanaticism and her infidelity led him into a slow downward spiral that cost him his career, his health and his relationship with his children.

Phil's saga is familiar to many divorced fathers who suffered through a difficult marriage but who still love and want a relationship with their children. Clearly, any time there is a divorce, there is plenty of fault on both sides; things that could have been done early to save a marriage. But in cases like the one chronicled in Who Says Life is Fair?, the consequences for the father can seem out of proportion to the actions taken along the way. Whether it is the natural course of events, or children are subjected to parental alienation, the results can be devastating for a father who is estranged from the children he loves.

Fortunately for our protagonist, Phil finds a life with greater hope and meaning as he moves beyond the divorce and the resultant death of his relationship with his children. He finds another partner with whom he can experience a motivating and uplifting relationship and also finds greater joy and fulfillment in life. While he longs for a reconciliation with his children, that desire does not overwhelm him or impact his ability to find joy in life.

The Prescription

One of the best parts of this book for me was the chapter near the end where the author shares Jack Hamilton's prescription for a happy life even in the face of devastating events in one's life including divorce and estrangement. Hamilton's seventeen key principles for happiness in life are extraordinary and clearly worth waiting for in Who Says Life is Fair?. They include ideas such as looking for the good in life, offering and seeking forgiveness, keeping personal commitments, striving for spiritual insight, trusting and taking risks again, seeking help and taking care of physical health, among others. Each of the principles is the subject of a few paragraphs, and that chapter comprises an excellent self-help book all by itself within the confines of the space allotted. But the key message in my mind was to take charge of life, creating the life one seeks by creating first an attitude of happiness.

The Bottom Line

I found Who Says Life is Fair? to be an insightful and interesting book. It is not an easy read, and will not be for a father who has live a life like Phil Temple's. While the details may be different, the process and pain will be familiar for many. But the lessons taught through the prose and the prescription are valid for any father in any circumstance. But particularly for fathers who are estranged from their adult children, the message is truly profound. Pining away and letting life take a back seat while one hopes for reconciliation is not the right approach, while it may be among the most popular. Moving on with life, hoping for the best but being willing to live life in its fullest sense, is the recommended approach. The hope offered, along with the prescription for how to move forward, are the major results of this effort.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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