Adam Langer has written a small, elegant book about his search for the interior life of his father. For most of the author’s life, his father had spoken of writing a book about a little-known historical event, the Bonus March. World War I veterans had been promised payment for their service during the war, which they would not receive for several years. But during the Great Depression, they marched on Washington demanding the money, fearing they would never live long enough to receive it. Mr. Langer uses this event and his search for his grandfather’s part in the Bonus March to research his family history and explore his relationship with his father.
During the research process Langer realizes that his father was not always honest about his family history. He would sometimes embellish events or add facts. Why would his father do this? He was a respected doctor, highly intelligent and accomplished. This raises an interesting question — to what extent do we all construct our identities, and what part is truth and what part is myth. And is it the myth that really defines who we are?
Langer leaves us with another question to ponder: how many of us really know our parents, their life’s dreams and disappointments, and how they find contentment and happiness?