The Boy He Left Behind: A Man’s Search for His Lost Father

Search-Cover“I was four years old when my father came back to kidnap me,” begins this gripping memoir about Matousek’s search for James Matousek, the drifter father he never knew. Described by the New York Times as ” part reminiscence, part detective story, part spiritual musing,” this memoir is more than the story of one man’s search for his father; it is also a look at the meaning of life and how fathers contribute to that meaning.

Growing up in a family of troubled women (Matousek’s sister committed suicide when the author was 29), he describes the turmoil of growing up “fatherless in America” – an experience shared by millions of children in what sociologists have called the Age of the Absent Father – and the difficult, ultimately successful, struggle to figure out what being a man really means in an age of shifting definitions, evolving sexuality, and “breaking out the man box” of stereotyping and patriarchy. With the tension of a mystery story, the climax occurs when Matousek meets a man he believes to be his father. But is he? And does Matousek, who has reconciled with his mother as she lay dying, really care? These are just two questions leading to this memoir’s surprising conclusion.

Praise for The Boy He Left Behind

“Mark Matousek’s memoir The Boy He Left Behind begins with the gripping sentence, ‘I was four years old when my father came back to kidnap me.’ Part reminiscence, part detective story, part spiritual musing, the book is more than the story of one man’s search for his father, it is also a look at the meaning of life and how fathers contribute to that meaning.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“This thoughtful and lovingly rendered portrait of an American childhood is a refreshing addition to the genre. Matousek not only tells his own story but brilliantly evokes the troubled lives of his mother and sisters with humor, honesty, and above all, compassion.”
-Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace

“A riveting story in the hands of a master storyteller. Mark Matousek has written a family memoir that is tight and revealing. This is one fine book.”
-James McBride, author of The Color of Water

“A gripping memoir that reads like a novel, with eccentric characters, snappy dialogue, surprising plot twists and stunning epiphanies. The read [The Boy He Left Behind] is to touch something fiery and alive, frightening but real.”
-New Age Journal

“[A] searing memoir….The writing is exhilarating…deeply soulful, compassionate, and self-scrutinizing. It is an explosive memoir filled with prose that sings, one that provokes readers to question where we come from and what our places are in this world. Matousek…writes from the heart. Read this book”
-Los Angeles Magazine

“Matousek’s account of his search for the father he hadn’t seen since he was four [is] sharp and funny, thanks to the punchy dialogue and dead-on character sketches.”
-Elle

“Interweaving the frustrating suspenseful search for his long-lost father with unsparing recollections of a fatherless boyhood and his confrontation with a life-threatening disease, Mark Matousek expertly guides you through the particulars of his life into a harrowing meditation on the difficulties of becoming a man in a country without fathers. The Boy He Left Behind is beautifully crafted, artful and inspiring. It merits a place alongside the late Paul Monette’s masterwork, Becoming a Man; Half a Life Story. Like Monette, Matousek’s triumph is twofold – In the book he has written, and in the man he has become. Matousek’s probing memoir of lost childhood and found history celebrates the power of manhood.”
-The Utne Reader

“Matousek’s perceptions are so keen and his prose so sophisticated, the personal frequently ascends to the universal in the best possible way.”
-Bay Area Reporter

“Mark Matousek has produced [a] riveting account of his search–at age 38, with the help of a private detective–for the father who abandoned him at age four. A searing meditation on the psychic harm suffered by men and women without fathers, this wise odyssey wrestles with questions of life and death and the search for the meaning of one’s existence.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A sensitive meditation on death, family and masculinity that asks hard questions about a culture without fathers”
-Out

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