I am still not sure how I ever got a copy of Alternadad by Neal Pollack but it rested on my bookcase for probably a decade before I found the time to pick it up and give it a chance. Now that I can read non-fiction again, I figured I needed to jump in and start doing it. This novel focuses on a young couple, their burgeoning love, and then their decision to have a child. The primary focus is Neal and Regina’s attempt to raise their child in a cool alternative manner where they make their own choices and do not step in tune with the rest of the society they vaguely disprove of.
Publisher: Anchor Books
Stars: 3 Stars
Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths
Soon, like most parents, they find having a child is extremely challenging and takes up a lot of your time. This is compounded by the fact both parents work from home. The parents are a bit particular in their viewpoints on life and how they wish to mold their child. Throughout much of the novel, Neil seems to be a mix of contradicting ideas and values. On one hand he wants to be a cool underground guy; smoking weed and listening to punk rock music, while on the other, he works with police officers to enforce gentrification in his neighborhood. They are also concerned with food to such an extent I think Chong would have said, “Hey man, relax and let your kid have a cookie, man.”
Neil Pollack has been a writer for a long time, and he already made the mistake of discussing some of his parental failings online and got a ration of hate mail and other things. Being a parent of three times as many children as this book discusses, I feel I can speak with some certainty as to how punk rockers raise children. I am not going to criticize Neil’s choices in child rearing, I intend to take a different route.
I take exception with Neil’s premise that he is an alternative father. If anything, Neal, and his wife could certainly be termed helicopter parents, for they would go to the schools if they found out they were serving a sugar drink. Even though they were $23,000 in debt, they would rather pay to send the child to a daycare they did not really like, so they could work at home without interruption. I always thought the best thing about working at home would be not having to send your kids off to start their indoctrination at age one. I think it takes more than listening to a few bands no one’s ever heard of and wearing a Ramones shirt to be alternative. If you are flustering over your child and bragging about his eight-hour long agenda while working with the police to gentrify a neighborhood, I’m sorry it just does not seem very punk rock. I just see him more as a yuppie with a tattoo. Do not get me wrong, he is a nice guy, and we could probably hang out and have a beer. However, I have a feeling we would be deep in the reeds of disagreement before beer three kicked in.
I am not saying this is a bad novel, but I do not see much of my punk rock experiences between these pages. I really think a better title for this book might have been, Helicopter Parent with a Nose Ring. They do love their child and they are doing the best job they can, and no one can knock them for that. Despite how annoying much of this novel was, I wish Neal, his wife, and his son, who must now be in high school, the best, and congrats for being able to make enough money off writing to stay home and take care of your kid.