Summer of Deliverance is a powerful and moving memoir of anger, love, and reconciliation between a son and his father. Hailed as a literary genius of his generation, James Dickey created his art and lived his life with a ferocious passion. He was a heavy drinker, a destructive husband and father, a poet of grace and sensitivity, and, after the publication and subsequent film of his novel, Deliverance, a wildly popular literary star. Drawing on letters, notebooks, diaries, and his explicit conversations with his father, Christopher Dickey has crafted a superb memoir of the corrosive effects of fame, a moving remembrance of a crisis that united a family, and an inspiring celebration of love between father and son.
Given the amount of emotional injury poet James Dickey (1923-1997) inflicted on himself and his family, it's a remarkable achievement that in this surprisingly tender memoir, Christopher Dickey not only discovers new love for his father but imparts it to readers as well. Arrogant, alcoholic, unfaithful to his wife, and manipulative with his children (he boasted of Christopher, "I made his head"), James Dickey emerges here as an all-too-human figure whose weaknesses are partially redeemed by his fierce passion for his art and by a late-life attempt to make amends for years of careless, destructive acts. His son's book is, among other things, a cautionary tale about the temptations of fame and money: Dickey's bestselling novel Deliverance (1970) pushed the poet to a level of commercial success he was ill equipped to deal with. The drinking got worse, the affairs more flagrant, the writing sloppier, and after Christopher's mother died in 1976, father and son seldom spoke. They reconciled in 1994; this book began as their mutual project to describe the making of the Hollywood film version of Deliverance. Good though those chapters are, it's the author's unflinchingly honest yet compassionate portrait of his father that stands out. Noted for his journalism, particularly covering Central America's gruesome civil wars of the 1980s, Christopher Dickey proves that he can plumb the intricacies of the human heart as incisively as the horrors of military conflict. His father would be proud. --Wendy Smith