The Nine Lessons by Kevin Alan Milne
“What I didn’t realize back then is that fate, like the golf clubs of my youth, is a pendulum: the further we try to push it away, the harder it swings back to hit us in the head. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, through a series of fateful swings of the club, I would be forced to acknowledge that my father was right all along: Golf is life, and life is golf, and we are all just players trying to finish the round.”
The Nine Lessons is purportedly about golf (nine lessons a son who’s come to hate his father’s golf-filled life promises to take with him when he learns that his wife is pregnant). But what this book is actually about is how a son comes to know a father that he thought he disdained and how he also stops fearing himself as a potential father. He amazingly also comes to know his mother (a mysterious figure who died when he was an infant and about whom he has only one memory) through a series of extra scorecards that his father used as an unusual diary every time he played golf.
As often happens (for those of us old enough to know) perhaps August’s father London (nicknamed so by August’s mother, for the city from whence he came) didn’t have his son’s worst interests at heart. He himself loved golf, and wanted to make his son into a golfer (at which August failed miserably, and then felt that he had failed at life, athough he became a veterinarian and married the woman he loved). His father wouldn’t even allow him to use a red sled his grandparents sent him because he couldn’t “slice” properly, expounding that his mother had wanted him to learn to play golf and that he could only use the sled after his slice had been cured – but his slice never got cured.
The Nine Lessons reads easily, and many of us can identify with our parents’ complex plans for us, of which we may not want any part! But August learns that just as his father London forged a new life for himself, he’d wanted the same for his son, and that none of us come into the world fully equipped with parenting skills. From the new revelations about his mother and his father, August comes to believe that he might finally be able to forgive his father.
But when August’s wife Erin and his unborn child are in danger during the birthing process (the placenta was peeled away), London insists on taking August out for his last golf lesson, and the only place that they can find in the hospital to swing a golf club is in the chapel! August thinks, “Why do we bother toiling and struggling for some tiny shred of happiness that can be taken away at any moment?”
To find out what August learns that day in the hospital, you’ll have to read The Nine Lessons! You’ll certainly be glad that you did!
Themes: Fathers, Sons, Golf, Loss, Faith
The Nine Lessons by Kevin Alan Milne
Published by The Hachette Group, May 2009
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writer’s Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of “Where The Waters Meet”, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry.