A Man Named Dave

Book review by Deane Barker tags: biography

My daughter gave me this book for Christmas. She had seen it at church, apparently.

I did not like it.

Here’s the thing: this is Dave Pelzer’s third book about his childhood trauma. I did not read the other two (though I vaguely remember the press “A Boy Called It” got back in 1995). After two prior books, what else is there to say, really? This one covers his childhood briefly, just to give you an idea of how much of a disaster his mother was, then launches into his life as an adult.

The book is extremely melodramatic, and probably somewhat fictionalized. I don’t think he made anything up, but there are large stretches of long dialogue that there’s no way he could possibly remember exactly. I had trouble getting past this. It felt like a novelization in places, and conversations were filled with enough dialogue and drama for an after-school special.

The book is really just a long story of family dynamics and coming-of-age. Pelzer talks about the loss of his father, his career in the Air Force, his first failed marriage, his reckoning with his mother when she finally died, his strained relationship with his grandmother, the problems getting his speaking and writing career off the ground, the birth of his son, and finally his (presumably happy) second marriage.

Is there a larger point to draw from all this? I can’t think of one. Not counting his apparently horrific childhood, he seems to have gone through some struggles, as have we all. If we look at the stretch from 12 (when he entered foster care) to 44, my life has probably been filled with as much struggle as his.

Taken from that perspective, the book is a nondescript story of a man becoming an adult. Situations we’ve all been through, really.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m sure Dave Pelzer is a fine human being, and by all accounts, he’s helped a lot of people through his speaking and his writing. And I make no claims about his first two books – they might be amazing and revolutionary – and perhaps I missed something important by not reading them first.

But as for this particular book, it just wasn’t very interesting.

Book Info

Dave Pelzer

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