by Kati Heng
It starts with the death of his father, his last immediate family member. From there, Will Boast’s memoir goes on a powerful journey through his family’s past and his path to finding the other family he never knew he had. It’s deep, tragic, painfully honestly reflective and so, so good.
Boast’s mother was the first guardian lost, early on in his high-school days. Discovering cancer, she went through chemo and the works, but the shitty thing doctors don’t tell people or their families point blank when the cancer begins to spread is that chemo doesn’t cure everybody. One in five survivors, one in four depending on the type. Boast’s mother was not the one. That left Will, his younger brother Rory and his dad.
Obviously, it’s hard for a father, any father, to suddenly be left with the responsibilities of both parents. Especially so if the guy’s not been so involved with the kids lives before. Even more if the guy finds his main source of comfort from the bottle.
It’s the three men in the house for a bit, but soon, Boast must go to college, leaving just his dad and Rory in the house. They fight. It’s tense. Father sees son throwing his life away, drinking too young and too much, doing drugs, skipping classes and never caring for homework, hanging out with the wrong crowd. Son sees dad (often drunk) and rolls eyes to the remarks, goes out and lives as he wants.
Then, Rory gets in a car accident with those boys his father warned him about. Will’s crushed by his brother’s death, losing this kid that meant so much to him, that charmed everyone he met.
Now, his father is all alone in the home, practically drinking himself to death. Will visits and calls as often as he can, but finds it hard to balance spending so much time with his last remaining family member with his desire to leave the Midwest, to move even further from his Wisconsin hometown, his discomfort seeing his father so deep in his alcoholism, often saying odd, things, slurring and hiccupping as they talk.
His dad shows up to work one day with a pain in his gut. Still, this is the man with perfect attendance. He powers through. On the drive home, he collapses, dying at the steering wheel of his car.
This is where Epilogue, time-line wise, begins, as 24-year-old Boast realizes the family he knew is gone.
In the days after his father’s death, Boast begins to clean the house, airing papers, documents and secrets his father had hidden for many years. There’s a folder marked “Marriage/Divorce.” Was his father planning on leaving Boast’s mom before they found the cancer? There’s a massive sum of money, more than poor bohemian Boast ever imagined he would earn thanks to his aspirations as a writer and jazz-musician, that is the product of the payouts from Rory’s death.
And, as his aunts reveal to Boast, there’s the fact his father was married before, while he was still living in England. He loved an older woman, got her pregnant and raised two young boys with her until about 10 years later, he left and never came back. Never even kept photos of his British boys. Boast’s father had another family, but, as Will realizes, he, his mom and his brother were the other family, the ones his father chose.
It’s aching, and rough and may even be hopeless, but Will knows he must find his half-brothers, the only people it seems he has left.
Epilogue is intense, exposing the wounds of a family, the ways its members try to heal them or at least hide the scars. It’s unfair, for Will, to have lost so much so soon. It’s unfair, for his half-brothers, to have lost their father years before his death.
As the story unfolds though, there is hope. It’s an Epilogue to his first family, the ordinary mother-father-two-kids set-up, a beautiful obituary to the good times and the bad. Yet, the story is just the beginning of Will’s new life, the story of how he came to find his other family and how the pain both sets of boys helped sew them together.