Author: Adam Sharp

ASIN: B00C1KOO72 (Kindle Edition)

The intriguing title of Adam Sharp’s memoir, Daddy Was a Punk Rocker, might conjure titillating images of glamour, youthful rebellion and hedonistic excess. In fact, his story is an account of the consequences of his father’s short-lived musical career, his parents’ descent into drug addiction and alcoholism, and their refusal to assume the adult roles and responsibilities that come with parenthood. The consequences, of course, are the environment into which Adam Sharp is abandoned, grows up, and struggles throughout his life to overcome.

His story could have easily descended into a bleak reading experience, filled with self-pity and recrimination, but the writer avoids this by relying on a non-judgmental, child’s perspective during the earlier chapters. Like many children living in an adverse environment – whether caused by divorce or abuse or war – this is the only reality they know. This is their “normal,” and they combat loneliness and heartache by marshalling the resources at hand: their imaginations, fantasies, and hopes. They find love in their hearts for parents who give them none, and dream of a reunited, idealized, happy family where everything will eventually turn out right. In Adam’s case, this fantasy never dies, and he pursues this ideal throughout his life, through all of the disappointments and betrayals ahead.

The author writes in a crisp, first-person, present tense point of view which engages the reader with its You-Are-There perspective. He effectively captures the sordid world of the junkie lifestyle with a brief description of the house in which they’d lived, distilling the squalor into details of the furnishings: boarded windows; a mattress on the floor; the contents of a dresser, including syringes, pills, and a gun; and a faded carpet filled with holes (“a thousand shuffling footfalls have worn it bare”). The house “hadn’t always been in that condition; it had been, like my father, clean and respectable once.” These fragments of information allow the reader to extrapolate the larger picture of Adam’s existence, creating empathy, and keep the story moving along quickly.

As a character, Adam is plucky, resourceful and witty. The reader roots for him as he struggles to find stability. We cheer him on as he fights off bullying teachers and classmates, and chafes against the hometown that represses him and tries to kill his spirit. We hold our breath as he attempts to reinvent himself as the New Adam, someone who is strong, loveable and strives to become the person he wants to be. Adam is brutally honest in his assessment of his endeavors and false starts, and his self-deprecating observations draw us further into his corner. The reader is kept in suspense throughout, not knowing whether he’ll ever overcome the obstacles in his life and be rewarded for his efforts.

Music is the connective tissue bonding Adam with his father. They shared a musical environment that housed a relationship as father-son, as mentor-protégé, and as friends that didn’t exist in the physical world. David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and, especially, Joy Division became the intermediaries who allowed father and son to discover each other’s inner selves and soothe the wounds that they inflicted on each other. His mother and he did not have this medium to rely upon, and her desperate attempt to narrow the chasm between them is the most heart-wrenching part of the story.

If the measure of success of a memoir is that it allows you to walk in the writer’s shoes and dwell in a place you otherwise couldn’t, Daddy Was a Punk Rocker can certainly be called an unqualified success. Adam Sharp’s skills as a writer and observer enable the reader to enjoy that experience as well.

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