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Love, Dad: Confessions of an Anxious Father

Love, Dad: Confessions of an Anxious Father

Author: Laurie Steed

Publisher: Fremantle Press

Published: August 2023

It begins, as all my favourite memoirs do, with vulnerability.

Love, Dad: Confessions of an Anxious Father is the second full-length publication by West Australian author Laurie Steed, following his debut novel You Belong Here in 2018.

The pages open with a frank confession: this is not the triumphant journey of resilient new fatherhood that Steed had envisaged. Instead, it tells a tale of deep-seated fears, and loudly rejects the often-fallacious Australian notion that ‘she’ll be right’. I nod in agreement, feeling an immediate sense of connection with the author.

The vulnerability that Steed evinces through all 286 pages of Love, Dad is – in my opinion – the very definition of strength as a modern man, and the antithesis of failure. For example, there is a brief yet powerful page citing conversations of apology with former school friends. Steed writes this dialogue with such frankness, I found myself blinking in admiration. To not only reflect on past behaviour but to acknowledge it – both privately and now, on a public scale – and extend contrition is, to me, a beacon of hope for humanity and demonstrates the salve that intentional kindness can be at any age or stage of life.

There were moments where I reacted physically to Love, Dad which is a mark of high-quality storytelling. I placed my hand over my heart after reading of a great loss. I laughed at Steed’s facetious indignance at being refused labour-pain-related drugs. I chuckled at the image of poor Laurie Steed having his head stitched after a frisbee golf outing went wrong. I swallowed with profound emotion and understanding when Steed looks at a lined piece of notepaper his father hands him before surgery:

“He’s written things down. There’s all kinds of stuff: bank account details, email addresses and passwords. I see the list and think, That can’t be the sum and total of my dad’s life, these numbers and words, when my world is tied to this man, it rests within his soul, and the memories we’ve shared.”

Steed is an accomplished short form author, and his well-honed literary skill is on fine display in the humorous chapter ‘Safety and Security’. I found this to be an exquisitely crafted expression of the somewhat questionable but nevertheless present love between a father-in-law with his own intricate life history and his differently minded writer son-in-law and the two grandsons that connect them.

At times, the sheer volume of words overwhelmed me. It was as if a lifetime of immense and busy thoughts had broken an inner dam and flooded the pages. Having said that, the book is neatly structured into delectable bite-sized chapters and follows a logical linear narrative, so I never felt lost, and was consistently compelled to keep reading.

A few minor proofreading mishaps in the form of missing punctuation marks and repeated sentences is, to me, a beautiful inclusion, if indeed presumably a production oversight. In this book and in his personal philosophy, Steed is learning to embrace imperfections. They aren’t easy to accept, of course, as Steed recently shared with me, but they are there to teach us to go with the flow – which is, fittingly, the primary message of Love, Dad.

There is much to enjoy with this book. Like You Belong Here, Steed’s first novel, Love, Dad includes a plethora of Perth place descriptions and iconic 80s and 90s music and pop culture references to make the knowing reader smile. In the special way that only memoir can achieve, it also pays tribute to close family members and friends, and those moments when Steed felt “caught by outstretched hands”.

This is a raw, relatable, moving and captivating read, and, as an added bonus, it exists as an inspiring gift to the world. It says: We don’t always get it right. We don’t always feel like we’re winning. And that’s okay.


Reviewed by Shannon Britza

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