The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad by Joel Schwartzberg is an entertaining read for any father. The author's quick and dry wit, combined with his easy storytelling style, makes this book engaging. While all dads can relate to The 40-Year-Old Version, fathers who have been divorced and are either a non-custodial parent or have shared custody arrangements will find a familiar chord in Schwartzberg's prose.
"It Took a Divorce to Make Me a Better Father"
Joel Schwartzberg's memoir, The 40-Year-Old Version, includes this statement early on. His story of how his marriage failed, largely because of his and his wife's difficulties in coping with parenthood and the sacrifices it required, is a sad commentary on marriage and parenting. The author complains about the wealth of information online about the need to avoid divorce and find a way to stay married for the sake of the children but felt that this advice simply didn't apply to him and his family. While I can feel empathy for his situation, it seems that there are many, many families who have found ways to adjust to both marriage and parenting, recognizing that marriage fundamentally changes when a child becomes part of the equation. Joel spends a good share of the book trying to defend how his children are well enough off after the divorce.
Joel's challenge of trying to make a home for his children as he has them on weekends is a sentiment shared by many non-custodial and shared-custody fathers. The children (a boy and twin girls) sleep late when with their dad and have fun hanging out together. He talks about having the same breakfast choices each weekend and that while the kids complain sometimes, they know that it is "waffles, cereal or toast" every Saturday. They even have come to refer to these weekends together as "lazy Dadurdays." I have the feeling that many non-custodial fathers have similar experiences with their children, and they will smile as they read Joel's descriptions.
The Stuff for All Dads
Joel Schwartzberg's stories in The 40-Year-Old Version will ring true with just about all fathers. From back to school night to camping trips and from road trips to an afternoon at the circus, his experiences with his children hit home at so many levels. Joel's ability to tell a story blending humor and realism is uncanny and appreciated by this father. Even though I was not a divorced dad, I saw myself and my kids in many pages of this book. His life as a father is truly representative of so many dads around the world.
A Hearty Recommendation
Joel Schwartzberg's The 40-Year-Old Version is at the same time deep with meaning and light on the mind. I smiled almost all of the way through the book and laughed out loud at some parts. Despite my disagreement with his premise that divorce can unleash the "inner dad," I really enjoyed The 40-Year-Old Version. Joel's writing skills are unmatched (after all, he is a journalist), and his humorous expressions of the trials and tribulations of fatherhood, as well as the joy he has found as a dad, speak to the common father, whether divorced or married. This would be a great gift to any father, but would be particularly appreciated by any divorced or single dad.