Raising Raffi by Keith Gessen [8/10]

Quite why “Raising Raffi: A Book about Fatherhood (For People Who Would Never Read Such a Book)” is subtitled in that way is unclear, but this unusual, clear-eyed five-years-of a-life memoir is a treat. Keith Gessen, a Russian-born emigre with two highly regarded novels under his belt, opens his heart about the perils, pitfalls, and joys of raising Raphael in thronging New York. Framed as nine essays, approximately tracking years zero to five, concerning different aspects of childhood and fatherhood, the author combines a sense of wonder with honest bewilderment. It certainly helps that he is a lucid, gently rhythmic stylist, for one soon feels like a confidant. Scenes can be funny or disturbing, advice is offered but rarely without caveats, practicality spars with morality, and Raffi the boy, together with his mother, emerge from the book as glorious creations. I find it hard to explain the appeal of this quirky, non-How-To memoir, but somehow, Raising Raffi is a pleasure to bask in.

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