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Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son

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From the author of the best-selling King Leopold's Ghost, this haunting and deeply honest memoir tells of Adam Hochschild's conflicted relationship with his father, the head of a multinational mining corporation. The author lyrically evokes his privileged childhood on an Adirondack estate, a colorful uncle who was a pioneer aviator and fighter ace, and his first exploratio From the author of the best-selling King Leopold's Ghost, this haunting and deeply honest memoir tells of Adam Hochschild's conflicted relationship with his father, the head of a multinational mining corporation. The author lyrically evokes his privileged childhood on an Adirondack estate, a colorful uncle who was a pioneer aviator and fighter ace, and his first explorations of the larger world he encountered as he came of age in the tumultuous 1960s. But above all this is a story of a father and his only son and of the unexpected peace finally made between them.


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From the author of the best-selling King Leopold's Ghost, this haunting and deeply honest memoir tells of Adam Hochschild's conflicted relationship with his father, the head of a multinational mining corporation. The author lyrically evokes his privileged childhood on an Adirondack estate, a colorful uncle who was a pioneer aviator and fighter ace, and his first exploratio From the author of the best-selling King Leopold's Ghost, this haunting and deeply honest memoir tells of Adam Hochschild's conflicted relationship with his father, the head of a multinational mining corporation. The author lyrically evokes his privileged childhood on an Adirondack estate, a colorful uncle who was a pioneer aviator and fighter ace, and his first explorations of the larger world he encountered as he came of age in the tumultuous 1960s. But above all this is a story of a father and his only son and of the unexpected peace finally made between them.

30 review for Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    Journalist Adam Hochschild can write hundreds of interesting pages about the varieties of colonialist terror in Africa but can’t seem to conjure up more than a dozen interesting episodes with his weird industrialist father; we only get fleeting glimpses of how the 1% live. Hochschild grew up in unspeakable wealth and privilege, his self-hating Jewish father inheriting the family mineral extraction-with-exploited-labor-in-Africa business. But for young Adam, Dad was distant, awkward and made his Journalist Adam Hochschild can write hundreds of interesting pages about the varieties of colonialist terror in Africa but can’t seem to conjure up more than a dozen interesting episodes with his weird industrialist father; we only get fleeting glimpses of how the 1% live. Hochschild grew up in unspeakable wealth and privilege, his self-hating Jewish father inheriting the family mineral extraction-with-exploited-labor-in-Africa business. But for young Adam, Dad was distant, awkward and made his stomach tighten for decades. Dad sounds like he had slight OCD, but was otherwise generous, friendly and surprisingly liberal for an elite capitalist. I had high expectations for this memoir since it covered Hochschild’s time in South Africa, interning (!) for an anti-apartheid newspaper in the early 60s, but he instead focuses on colorful, or colorless, family characters. By the end, the obnoxious family life is redeemed and your impression of the Father is corrected. Nicely written, but yawn…

  2. 4 out of 5

    david

    Men are known for their chilling, profound, emotive dialogues. Here, between a father and a son.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    Because I liked "To End All Wars", I was curious about the author, Adam Hochschild. This is an older book, published in 1986, and is a sort of memoir of his childhood, and in particular of his rocky relationship with his father. He had a privileged upbringing as the only son of older, wealthy parents. His family had made their fortune in worldwide mining interests. Much of the book takes place in a secluded estate in the Adirondacks. I think the author perhaps had the plight of many only childre Because I liked "To End All Wars", I was curious about the author, Adam Hochschild. This is an older book, published in 1986, and is a sort of memoir of his childhood, and in particular of his rocky relationship with his father. He had a privileged upbringing as the only son of older, wealthy parents. His family had made their fortune in worldwide mining interests. Much of the book takes place in a secluded estate in the Adirondacks. I think the author perhaps had the plight of many only children, in that he was the sole focus of attention and hopes for his parents. His father seemed to mean well, but was relentlessly hard on his son. The father was away in world War II for Adam's earliest years, and they never seemed to get much past being strangers to each other. Only when his father was quite elderly and Adam had sons of his own, did the two seem to have made peace. Adam speculated that his father often quelled any behavior in his son that seemed "Jewish", as the father had a Jewish heritage he had suppressed. This is a very well-written, introspective look at a relationship between a child and his parents. Perhaps we all have areas of misunderstanding with our parents and, like Adam, are only able to work through them when we become parent ourselves.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Higginbotham

    Half the Way Home A friend recommended I read this memoir of Adam Hochschild’s relationship with this father. This was published in 1986, so it is an early book. I have read more of the recent non-fiction by Hochschild and have been pleased with his scholarship. This memoir is an impressive book that speaks to the complexities of family relationships. It also says much about how we interpret the world around us and what we do not see. Adam captures the child’s voice very well and we can age with Half the Way Home A friend recommended I read this memoir of Adam Hochschild’s relationship with this father. This was published in 1986, so it is an early book. I have read more of the recent non-fiction by Hochschild and have been pleased with his scholarship. This memoir is an impressive book that speaks to the complexities of family relationships. It also says much about how we interpret the world around us and what we do not see. Adam captures the child’s voice very well and we can age with him. He is slightly older than me, so I think my experience of the 1960s and 1970s was very different and I had few choices. The memoir gives me much to think about as I decipher my own growing up, although my world was very different from Hochschild’s. Love in families can take many forms, as his mother’s appreciation for him was clear, but she also never contradicted his father/her husband, which says much about their own relationship. Yet, like many parents born in the late 19th century, there is a formality of life. My grandparent, born early in the 20 century, had any of those traits, but they did not have the rigid expectations that Harold Hochschild had for his only son. How one learns to rethink the world you live in is beautifully documented. It is no wonder that business was never discussed as the dinner table, since it was harder to make the connections and Adam had to face the world on his own terms and make his own path. Yet, to appreciate the ways that his father was also a rebel is interesting and his own private struggle with anti-Semitism. Maybe it is only in movies and films that we see these intimate father-son; mother-daughter talks, because silence is so much more of the motif of American families.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Smith

    I really love the author of this book, though I didn't realize this was his first work when I bought it. It's a very interesting reflection on himself and where he came from, and from that, where his father came from, and so on. It's a story of awakening and just trying to figure out himself and the world. I enjoyed it a lot, and I greatly appreciated the author's candor. I think some other folks would either not be self aware enough or would be too ashamed to talk about a childhood like his in I really love the author of this book, though I didn't realize this was his first work when I bought it. It's a very interesting reflection on himself and where he came from, and from that, where his father came from, and so on. It's a story of awakening and just trying to figure out himself and the world. I enjoyed it a lot, and I greatly appreciated the author's candor. I think some other folks would either not be self aware enough or would be too ashamed to talk about a childhood like his in the way that he has. I hope to pick up another of his books soon.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steve Coscia

    This book can be an emotional ride for some readers. It was for me. I smiled, understood, empathized, teared up and laughed. Adam Hochschild comes full circle in this memoir regarding boyhood memories of his tough and reprimanding father. The Hochschild family history, included therein, is an interesting story in itself. The family's history and the upstate New York backdrop adds much flavor and personality to the story telling. Good writing throughout. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicodemus Boffin

    A fine memoir. I found it especially poignant as the story comes to its denouement- as the author's father grows old and the author grows up, their relation and bond (so troubled in the author's childhood- his father's very presence could cause visceral distress in the young Adam) calm and blossom- the two Hochschild men find their familial equipoise as they move from their emotional antipodes toward a halfway point that they can share- a home, found half-way.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I read this memoir because in large part it takes place at Eagle Nest, the Adirondack Great Camp near Indian Lake where the family has a stately home, a home I visited for five days last November, to help develop a yearly and five- year business plan for my friend’s environmental non- profit. Where once the gorgeous home hosted administers in the Hochschild’s mining companies, or politicians, or socialites from all over the world, now it hosts environmental non- profits and writing workshops. Ad I read this memoir because in large part it takes place at Eagle Nest, the Adirondack Great Camp near Indian Lake where the family has a stately home, a home I visited for five days last November, to help develop a yearly and five- year business plan for my friend’s environmental non- profit. Where once the gorgeous home hosted administers in the Hochschild’s mining companies, or politicians, or socialites from all over the world, now it hosts environmental non- profits and writing workshops. Adam and Harold Hochschild had a complicated, prickly relationship. Harold, born in the US in 1892, was a self- hating Jew and he was uncomfortable in his own skin. “We lost no close relatives in the Holocaust. Almost everybody was able to leave Germany in time. One cousin, who was married to a Gentile, stayed-- and, astoundingly, survived unharmed. The Nazis made her wear the yellow star and work in a factory. . . She was driven to the factory job by the family chauffeur.”(15) “’Remember [translation: Be grateful], I didn’t make you go to Yale or into The Company. A pause for the final twist: “And I’m not so sure that was a good thing.”’ (140) I borrowed this from interlibrary loan.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    What a contrast to Trace's book that arrived and I read between reading Chapters 16 and 17 of this book! Whereas there were lots of ambiguous sentences and printing errors in her book, but the emotions aroused kept me reading, in this autobiography the sentences and chapters were beautifully crafted and easy on the eye and ear, but there was for me little emotional involvement. The differences between an explosive and difficult life full of feelings that Trace experienced (see One small sacrifice What a contrast to Trace's book that arrived and I read between reading Chapters 16 and 17 of this book! Whereas there were lots of ambiguous sentences and printing errors in her book, but the emotions aroused kept me reading, in this autobiography the sentences and chapters were beautifully crafted and easy on the eye and ear, but there was for me little emotional involvement. The differences between an explosive and difficult life full of feelings that Trace experienced (see One small sacrifice), and a protected childhood with wealthy parents, the one of whom was distanced and displaced by his war years and the mother constantly mediating between and protecting father and son from each other. Her very attempts to do so seem to me have been what made it impossible for Adam to get to know and understand his father until after his father's death, and with the onset of the mature realisation that much that he had become owed much to his genetic and environmental inheritance. A quiet sad book in many ways.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Adam Hochschild is a wonderful historian--his book, "King Leopold's Ghost" is unforgettable. This is a memoir about his relationship with his father. He is a wonderful writer from a very wealthy family. He honestly describes his own childish fears, which were many. He was never comfortable with his father, finding it impossible to eat with him for example. His mother doted on Adam and he welcomed those times when it was just the two of them. Traveling around the world, he had a world of luxury. H Adam Hochschild is a wonderful historian--his book, "King Leopold's Ghost" is unforgettable. This is a memoir about his relationship with his father. He is a wonderful writer from a very wealthy family. He honestly describes his own childish fears, which were many. He was never comfortable with his father, finding it impossible to eat with him for example. His mother doted on Adam and he welcomed those times when it was just the two of them. Traveling around the world, he had a world of luxury. He wasn't comfortable with that world and when he could, went to South Africa to work to abolish apartheid. With time, and perhaps by writing this book, he could see his father in a different light. However, like any good memoir, this book will help the reader gain insight into families and relationships in general. With time, we can sometimes understand our own reactions in life. If you like memoirs, try this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Here's the thing: when I read a memoir, I'm looking for emotion, for the dirty details (obvious or implied), for a taste of what it's like to be that person and live that life for just a moment. Adam comes from a family background experienced by very few, especially back when he was growing up. Instead of showing us that lifestyle, I think the shame of the extreme wealth and privilege he struggles with in the book (and obviously up to his authoring of the memoir) prevents him from flinging back Here's the thing: when I read a memoir, I'm looking for emotion, for the dirty details (obvious or implied), for a taste of what it's like to be that person and live that life for just a moment. Adam comes from a family background experienced by very few, especially back when he was growing up. Instead of showing us that lifestyle, I think the shame of the extreme wealth and privilege he struggles with in the book (and obviously up to his authoring of the memoir) prevents him from flinging back the curtain and unabashedly revealing his background (see the glass castle for a great example of this). A good memoir needs to be personal, I feel like this was, in the main, holding back, hollow, bland. I felt sorry for the father through the book. If Adam is holding back from the reader, I can only imagine how much his actions were responsible for the emotional relationship with his father.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Myers

    What a lovely story about a young boy and then man growing up during the tumultuous years of the 60s in a family of great wealth and privilege. The cadence was especially good. The whole book flowed well for me. I never was bored. The author's descriptions of the Eagle Nest - the family summer home in the Adirondacks is very interesting and entertaining - a throw-back to an era lost. The author's relationship with his father is sad, touching, and in the end heat-warming as the author makes peace What a lovely story about a young boy and then man growing up during the tumultuous years of the 60s in a family of great wealth and privilege. The cadence was especially good. The whole book flowed well for me. I never was bored. The author's descriptions of the Eagle Nest - the family summer home in the Adirondacks is very interesting and entertaining - a throw-back to an era lost. The author's relationship with his father is sad, touching, and in the end heat-warming as the author makes peace with all of the confusion his upbringing wrought.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diane Johnson

    The relationship between a father and a son is described elegantly by Adam Hochschild. Although the action and emotion is underplayed, a wellspring of emotions come to mind as their complex love reveals itself. The use of setting is so poignant and extraordinary, the reader cannot help but remember his or her childhood with a nostalgic reverence. Superbly written,this memoir is a moving testament to the peace and forgiveness that comes with time to many fathers and sons.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Frederic

    Beautiful...understated but powerfully emotional...Hochschild is a terrific historian ("To End All War" and "Spain In Our Hearts") and equally effective as a witness to the eternal Agon of Fathers and Sons...

  15. 5 out of 5

    E.B.

    Adam Hochschild writes flawlessly from both the then and now -- as a neurotic, confused child to a thoughtful, analytical adult. I aspire to write memoir with this skill. Everyone should have this much perspective on their own life. Amazing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Beautifully written, very moving. It unfolds so elegantly and thoughtfully, I wanted it to go on much longer, but Hochschild is a master of saying what he needs and wants to say without rambling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Touching memoir that weaves the history of colonilaism and priveledge with the story of a father son realtionship.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Al Olson

    My friend Adam Hochschild's revealing memoir. Moving.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Beautiful style of writing! His relationship with his father was a little sad, and bittersweet at the end.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katharine

    Haunting memoir about a son's relationship with his father.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lacey

    Not the most exciting book... But definitely a well-written autobiography that focuses mostly on the boyhood relationship between a son and his emotionally distant father.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jody Loconti

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael A. Holowack

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  29. 4 out of 5

    Billy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Yue (Nina) Chen

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