Friday, January 17, 2014

Funeral in a Feminine Dress: Depravity Reborn as Virtue by M.J. Burke Sr.

Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Mj Burke Sr

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

During his younger years, M.J. Burke was sure of three things; alcohol and depravity flowed freely, his mother was always punished, and they were poor. From the vantage point of youth, Burke grew up in a world where a child could be left to his own devices below the age of ten and accompanying his parents to bars was routine. He knew something was wrong with the way his mother was treated but felt helpless to intervene.

After interviewing countless family members, friends, business associates and bar buddies, Burke compiled the information into a memoir. He included the obstacles, the triumphs, the bonds and the abandonment that the family endured throughout his parents' lives. Both inspiring and disturbing, the memoir gives a glimpse into one man's beginning, middle and hope for the end.

This book was a weirdly pleasant surprise. Another book won from a Goodreads giveaway, I was expecting something darker and nothing like the well-rounded book I received. From the start I realized that the author had done more than write his life story and publish it. He talked to as many people as possible about his parents, his brothers, and himself. It became clear that he intended to show the many sides of his parents as he possibly could and not only the darker side.

Not only did the author include his own misdeeds and mistakes, he owned them as well as the consequences. I really enjoyed this level of honesty. The pictures he painted of his life at home were a far cry from the idyllic middle class life shown on television shows of that generation, but for him they were his world. The soft side of his father toward other people and animals made a sharp contrast to the punishing meanness showed toward his mother. Her own duality was presented in the book as well through examples of her sharp wit and inquisitive mind being dulled by the alcohol and various forms of abuse.

At times I forgot that I was reading a memoir. I was glad for the different sections of family photographs throughout the book because they served as reminders that I wasn't reading a work of fiction. The natural progression of the story and the pacing of the writing style allowed for easy reading. I kept telling myself to stop at the end of the chapter but nearly always found my finger turning the next page. My emotions were sent on a roller coaster ride as I kept hoping something would change and the outcome would be different.

A poignant reminder that not everyone lived a charmed, happy American dream life, the author was still able to extract the good times from the rubble of the darker, chaotic times. Coming to terms with his family's legacy was difficult but I was glad to see progress toward the end of the book. Always intrigued by the lives of others, I did enjoy reading the author's story and happy to see him break the mold. There was a lot of wisdom imparted by his mother and others within the pages of the book - hope in the midst of despair, hard work pays off more than having things handed to you. It was the same wisdom I learned from my parents and grandmother. If you're looking for an interesting and uplifting despite the darkness type of memoir, I sincerely recommend this book.

Funeral in a Feminine Dress: Depravity Reborn as Virtue by M.J. Burke Sr. is currently available at various retailers in either paperback or Kindle formats. You can purchase a copy from Amazon by clicking the link provided below.
Funeral in a Feminine Dress: Depravity Reborn as Virtue by M.J. Burke Sr.

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