In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Digital Initiatives and Database Manager Bobby Keane writes about Abbott Awaits.
Usually I read fiction as a means of escape, but when I read Abbott Awaits it was like reading a journal of my own thoughts and experiences, grafted onto a fictional character.
Abbott is a modern husband and father. He has a 2-year-old daughter and his wife is pregnant with their second child. Over the course of 90 or so short vignettes, we follow Abbott as he navigates and muses about his role as a parent and as a partner in a marriage that has been inevitably changed as a result of parenthood. When I was reading this book I, too, had a 2-year-old son, Joseph, and my wife was pregnant with our second child. So, I can attest to the pitch-perfect realism of Abbott’s thought processes and his dialogue with his wife and toddler. There are several instances when I would read a passage and think to myself, “Yes! He gets it! Was Chris Bachelder eavesdropping on my conversation with Joseph this morning?” Through Abbott, Chris Bachelder has perfectly articulated what goes through the mind of a man who wants to be a good father and husband but has doubts that he is succeeding. This quote from the back of the book sums it up nicely:
Abbott’s pensive self-doubt comes to a head one day in late June as he cleans vomited raspberries out of his daughter’s car seat and realizes: “The following propositions are both true: (A) Abbott would not, given the opportunity, change one significant thing about his life, but (B) Abbott cannot stand his life.”
While Abbott Awaits is written from a male standpoint, there are numerous observations, sometimes scary and sometimes funny, about parenthood that will ring true to both men and women. For example, at one point, after his daughter appears to be taking an unusually long nap, Abbott finds himself afraid to go into his daughter’s bedroom to check on her for fear that she might not be breathing. Every new parent is assaulted by worries like this that are often unfounded and unreasonable.
Another example: Abbott is playing with his daughter and he has an idea to teach her how to do a somersault. He gently flips her over on her head and then into a roll to demonstrate. She is pleased and now wants her father to do one. Abbott, wanting to be a fun dad, agrees. However, he hasn’t done a somersault in ages and suddenly isn’t sure that he really remembers how to do one. He manages to do a poor approximation of a somersault and injures himself in the process only to find that, his daughter, whom this display was for, had shifted her attention and had not watched him.
A man does not always know his ultimate acts—the last time he swims in the ocean, the last time he makes love. But at the age of thirty-seven, perhaps the mid-point of his one and only life, Abbott knows that he has attempted his final somersault.
For me, five years later, both of my children have grown out of their toddler phases and I have become fully confident in my ability as a parent. However, I still enjoy opening Abbott Awaits to a random page and smiling as I read and remember that time in my life. Smiling, not only because of Chris Bachelder’s brilliant and witty prose but, more importantly, because my wife and I successfully made it through those uncertain years and things have turned out better than we could have imagined.
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