Fake Smiles is a graceful, moving and reflective memoir of a contentious fatherson relationship set against the backdrop of the Eisenhower and Nixon eras. The father—William P. Rogers—was attorney general in the Eisenhower administration and secretary of state in the Nixon administration, a period of dramatic change from post-war stability to the turmoil of the sixties. The author—Tony Rogers—the shy, introspective oldest son of the Rogers family marched against the Vietnam War while his dad was heading the State Department, played guitar in rock and jazz bands, built ham radios, spent two summers working on farms and had no appetite to "get ahead" which was his hard-driving and competitive father's constant mantra. Gradually and with great difficulty, father and son learned to accept each other. Always candid, never sparing himself, Tony Rogers—an award winning novelist and short story writer—recounts what the difficult time and that difficult relationship were like.
The famous and infamous were frequent visitors to the Rogers household. Richard Nixon often stopped for drinks after playing golf at Burning Tree, Robert Frost came to thank Bill Rogers for his help in getting Ezra Pound out of St. Elizabeths mental hospital, and the Red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy tried to teach Tony how to box in the family living room.
The record of an unorthodox life and a hard-won father-son relationship, Fake Smiles is an uncommonly literate, personal history that reveals fresh insights into a pivotal and still influential era of contemporary American history.
This is one of those rare books one can't put down, but doesn't want to have end. Extremely well-written, it is a poignant and insightful coming of age story, told with humor and humility. As the description says, it takes place in a Nixon administration family with that as the background, but the story is much larger and more timeless than that. Mr. Rogers has an artful and amazing ability to look at his own struggles with growing up, intellectually and emotionally, figuring out who he is, and leading his own life, rather than the life his parents, particularly his father, wanted him to lead. Any one of us, who had the same struggles, which is most of us, can identify with, enjoy, and learn from this book. Definitely worth reading; it will remain with you long after you have read the last sentence.
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