In Search of [Father]
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Published in: January-February 2022 issue.


MADDER: A Memoir in Weeds
by Marco Wilkinson
Coffee House Press. 185 pages, $16.95


MARCO WILKINSON begins his sometimes flinty, sometimes lyrical memoir with the simplest of genealogical charts: Marco, the progeny of a mother and [father]—the father in brackets because, for the entirety of the author’s life, his true father has been “absent invisible soundless.” “That I have felt like an orphan is a shame I carry and will not let go,” Wilkinson writes. “The truth is I don’t even know if I am a worm or a child or a man or something past all of those.”

            Wilkinson’s book is about his search for his father and, by extension, his roots and his identity. There was a great-grandfather who hailed from the Canary Islands and stowed away on a ship bound for Uruguay. But even this flimsy fact is cause for disappointment: “No one in my family now knows or cares what he did or why.” Wilkinson was 21 before he even learned his father’s name, a name he avoids mentioning in the book. From the only photo he ever saw of him—a blurred snapshot from the 1970s—he remembers heavy waves of black hair and not much else. “His absence hung above everything.”

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Philip Gambone recently published his fifth book, a memoir titled As Far as I Can Tell: Finding My Father in World War II.