If you read my last book review, you know that I don’t hand out gold stars and participation trophies for simply writing a book. This is why I was surprised when Andy Symonds reached out to me in response to my past review and asked me to review his book, “My Father’s Son.” After a few messages and a trip to the U.S./Mexican border, I got around to giving his book my undivided attention, and I was impressed.
“My Father’s Son” brings to light more than the fight, revealing the importance of the networks of friends and co-workers of a Navy SEAL or any service member, as well as their home life, family, community, and the lessons passed down from father to son. The characters have real dimensions, and are not the typical trash archetypes found in a great deal of military literature. The people in “My Father’s Son” speak to you, not at you.
Andy is a cool dude who recently co-authored an article for SOFREP titled “Navy SEALs Facing a Glut of Publicity Since Osama Bin Laden Raid” with former Navy SEAL Chris Heben on the fifth anniversary of the UBL raid. Andy was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions about “My Father’s Son.”
When Nathan’s father, a decorated Navy SEAL, is killed in combat, he must rely on his father’s teammates for direction while learning to become a man. The normal struggles of adolescence are amplified while growing up in the shadow of a war hero, and a young man’s future hangs in the balance. No one is safe from the scars of war in this funny, heart-wrenching, poignant novel.
Buck: Who do Nathan and Stephen Butler represent in the story with respect to the narrative guiding “My Father’s Son?”
Andy: I think – and hope – they represent father-and-son relationships that we can all identify with. The title of the book says it all as far as their relationship and Nathan’s growth throughout the story. He idolizes his father, with good reason, and knows from an early age he wants to be like him. I think most boys’ first heroes are – and certainly should be – their own father. That sometimes changes as we mature, but with Stephen as this larger-than-life figure, it makes sense that Nate’s real vision of manhood and honor doesn’t waiver as he gets older. It’s like he says about getting to hang out with Navy SEALs all the time: It’s the equivalent of a “normal” kid spending time in the Yankees’ dugout. I think it’s interesting how many SEALs’ fathers were in the teams, and it’s certainly not a coincidence.
Buck: What is your professional background?
Andy: I went from being a journalist covering local politics for a medium-size newspaper in Maryland to a career in sales. I always continued to write on the side, and actually wrote “My Father’s Son” in my spare time while working at Microsoft. When the book was near completion, I had a feeling it was something special. I’m getting married this summer, and knew that when I have a family, I won’t be able to take these huge risks anymore, so I decided to leave Microsoft to write full time. Now that I’m back doing that, I couldn’t be happier.
Buck: What do you want people to learn from “My Father’s Son?”
Andy: As a Navy brat, I want people to understand the sacrifices that military families make. I think it’s great that our country finally is showing the appreciation to the men and women putting their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, but our fighting force will be the first to tell you that what their families do when they are deployed is just as hard as what they do. Being in a military family is not easy, even if you never get that knock on the door.
Buck: What is your personal experience with the military family?
Andy: I grew up in one. My dad had eight or nine duty stations on two continents, and it was taxing on all of us moving every two or three years. For better or worse, it made me who I am today.
Buck: Where were you in life when you decided to bring forth the voice and lessons of Nathan Butler and his family?
Andy: I was pretty content, making good money at Microsoft, when I started to write “My Father’s Son.” But as I got into the story, it kind of consumed me, and I spent more time than I probably should have thinking about the family.
Buck: Where did you draw your insight from?
Andy: From all over. From what I’ve read, what I’ve experienced. Guys I’ve met, certainly SEALs that I’ve met. I knew early on that these guys were not like the rest of us, and they fascinated me. And when you combine their uniqueness with the climate of war we’ve had in this country since 9/11, I thought it was a story that needed to be told.
Buck: Why did you decide to write “My Father’s Son?”
Andy: Because I thought the story of war told from the family’s perspective had to be told.
Buck: Who do you believe “My Father’s Son” is most important to? The military family? The media? The public? The service members?
Andy: I think it’s for the family members. They need to know they are appreciated, and that what they do and what they go through is not thankless. It’s tough and full of sacrifice, but it’s not thankless. At least it shouldn’t be. I will say that I’ve been honored by some of the emails I’ve gotten from active-duty service members with young children who say how close to home the story hits.
You can order a copy of Andy Symonds’s “My Father’s Son” on Amazon, or just shop around for it. Either way, the book is truly a solid read.