Father’s Day, Simon Van Booy: Book Review

A moving novel about making a future for yourself after having a devastating past.

fathers day simon van booy book review
Father's Day Book Cover Father's Day
Simon Van Booy
Fiction
Harper Perennial
2016
Paperback
284

The moving story of an orphaned girl named Harvey and the troubled uncle who raises her—an unforgettable tale of loss and redemption from the author of The Illusion of Separateness

At the age of six, a little girl named Harvey learns that her parents have died in a car accident. As she struggles to understand, a kindly social worker named Wanda introduces her to her only living relative: her uncle Jason, a disabled felon with a violent past and a criminal record. Despite his limitations—and his resistance—Wanda follows a hunch and cajoles Jason into becoming her legal guardian, convinced that each may be the other’s last chance.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood and her life as a young woman in Paris, as she awaits her uncle’s arrival for a Father’s Day visit. To mark the occasion, Harvey has planned a series of gifts for Jason—all leading to a revelation she believes will only deepen their bond.

With extraordinary empathy and emotional impact, the award-winning writer Simon Van Booy has crafted a simple yet luminous novel of loss and transcendence, second chances and forgiveness: a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart. - Goodreads

This review contains quotes from the book

*Special thanks to Harper Perennial for allowing us to review Simon Van Booy’s Father’s Day.

Having read the book myself, I can attest that Father’s Day will hook you within the first few chapters; and the story within will move you in ways you never knew possible. Simon Van Booy‘s novel chronicles our narrator Harvey from her childhood until she’s 26-years-old.

We learn that when Harvey was 6-years-old, a traumatic event changes her life dramatically. She goes back to her childhood, one of a good life with parents who loved her, but then the next day, she discovers both of her parents died in a car accident. This is something she reflects on nearly 20 years later while living in Paris.

From the beginning, Van Booy makes it incredibly easy to show how his protagonist’s life took a turn for the worst. She was only a child when it happened, and the result led her to live with her only living relative, her uncle Jason. Van Booy goes into great detail to describe how Harvey’s parents felt about Jason as a person. We realize her mother hated Jason because he was a convicted felon who got into numerous fights, one such incident almost resulting in Jason killing someone. On the other hand, however, her father cared for his brother though they hadn’t contacted each other in over 10 years because of the situation that led to Jason’s imprisonment.

In the beginning, it’s easy to see that Van Booy wants to set Jason up as the antagonist, the not-so-good-guy in this family dynamic. This sets up an interesting plot because you want to know how this will all turn out, and how Harvey was made to grow up without her beloved parents. Having been raised by her uncle, who has been in and out of trouble with the law for as long as she can remember, all Harvey knew about Jason was that her parents recognized him as a bad man. So, of course, this makes her nervous when she finds out she’s being orphaned into his care. Throughout Father’s Day, however, we see their relationship develop in more positive ways; and as Harvey grows up, she begins to understand the kind of person her uncle really is.

“One time he got in a fight with a real bad man. They both got hurt, but the other man was much worse.”

“Did the other man die?”

“No,” Harvey’s father said. “But he was blinded.”

— excerpt from Simon Van Booy’s Father’s Day

Another interesting aspect of this story is how Van Booy discusses Harvey in her twenties, especially when she’s 26. We get to see her living in Paris, waiting for her uncle to arrive on Father’s Day and learn she planned on presenting him with multiple gifts that will hopefully bring their relationship even closer. Despite her uncle’s rough adolescence, Harvey considers Jason a father to her.

“A girl only gets one father in this world.”

— excerpt from Simon Van Booy’s Father’s Day

Later on, we notice how nervous Harvey is that Jason is coming to stay with her in Paris because it’s the first time he has stayed with her for a longer period of time. She talks about how she has stocked the fridge up with non-alcoholic beer. That is clue number one that she refers to Jason as her dad because when Harvey still had her parents, her dad would talk about how Jason had an alcohol problem, which led him to jail. She also talks about all the things she reminded her dad to do before arriving in Paris, which was no liquids in the carried on because it would hold him up in security. She wanted everything to be perfect for him. She wanted to show him how much she truly cared for him because he raised her to be the woman she is today. Without him, she would be lost.

This book will make you feel so sweet inside because of Jason and Harvey’s relationship. They’ve been through a lot but they save each other in the end. If you’re looking for a book to make you swoon, I promise you Father’s Day is the book worth buying or checking out at your local library. (And just in time for Father’s Day, not to mention!) This book gave me a whole new perspective on father and daughter relationships. And it brought me to tears multiple times.

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Written by Jessica Duffield

I am a sophomore in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate.