Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy is laugh-out-loud funny, quirky, and poignant. Growing up in a household where your parent is deeply involved in their religion is something I’m familiar with from my own life, yet Lockwood elevates the storytelling to hilarious and poetic mastery. She explains how her father became a Catholic priest, while also being married and fathering children. But that’s just the beginning. He is the chief odd duck in a unique and you-can’t-look-away fascinating family. In most ways, her father (or should I capitalize that?) seems like every other dad. Except his job involves The Blessed Sacrament and hearing confessions.
Lockwood and her husband move in with her parents for nearly a year while they recovered from a financial and medical crisis. So her observations are of revisited memories, as well as current occurrences. She tells of being a toddler at an abortion clinic protest. And details her father’s philosophy on teaching kids to swim.
Being an adult child in her parents home brings plenty of conflict as well. Lockwood and her husband Jason aren’t religious, and don’t hide their feelings from her parents. They question everything about Catholic dogma, and often make light of serious subjects. Lockwood writes this with finesse. As much as she disagrees, she’s never outright disrespectful. She takes a ticklish subject, and tickles it until you can’t help but laugh.
Lockwood’s mother is just as eccentric as her father, in her own way. She’s a classic alarmist mother—everything is the first step towards disaster. The love between mother and daughter is obvious, but there’s plenty of conflict as well. Moms are the keepers of both standards and stories in Lockwood’s world.
I listened to Lockwood read the audiobook version of Priestdaddy. I highly recommend that version for her deadpan delivery. But I also wish I had a print copy to refer to the truly skilled way she uses the English language. Her ability to turn a phrase is inspiring to me both as reader and aspiring writer. I’ll definitely track down her books of poetry next, since that craft informed her essay writing style. This is a unique and wonderful memoir that I envision listening to again for the laughs and the wisdom.