Book Review: My Father’s Wives

Mike Greenberg, ESPN

Mike Greenberg, ESPN

What sort of man divorces five women?
– Mike Greenberg, My Father’s Wives

Sen. Percival Sweetwater III walked out on his son Jonathan’s ninth birthday and never returned.  Shortly before his 40th birthday, Jonathan woke up thinking that his life was perfect.  His euphoria ended when he came home early to find his wife Claire in bed with another man.  His angst inspired a quest to meet all of his father’s ex-wives.

Mike Greenberg’s day job is on ESPN’s Mike and Mike.  He’s not the kind of guy you would expect to pen an insightful, philosophical, romantic tale about a vulnerable, privileged, wealthy guy who busts balls on a daily basis on Wall Street.  My Father’s Wives is a brilliant book that I couldn’t put down.


Sometimes the only way to handle
a moment of discomfort is with humor.
– Mike Greenberg, My Father’s Wives

Percy Sweetwater was a five-term liberal lion in the Senate.  He was powerful, charismatic, self-absorbed, and narcissistic.  He never let facts get in the way of a good story.  Jonathan coped with Percy’s abandonment by making jokes about things that weren’t funny.

Jonathan’s life lessons from the ex-wives are delivered with a humorous twist.  Anne worked as a yoga instructor at the Four Seasons Resort on the island of Nevis.  Jonathan inquired whether she hated his father:

Have you heard of Thich Nhat Hanh?
Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a beautiful man and a genius.
Your father, meanwhile,
was an asshole.
So fuck him.
– Mike Greenberg, My Father’s Wives
He’s a Buddhist monk, a brilliant one.  He won the Nobel Prize for peace.  He says that when another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself and his suffering is spilling over.  He says such a man does not need punishment.  He needs help.
Do you want to know what I say?
I say:  Fuck Him.
Mike and Stacy Steponate Greenberg

Mike and Stacy Steponate Greenberg

The key to life is learning to
put up with the imperfections.
– Mike Greenberg, My Father’s Wives

Most abuse survivors struggle with “not good enough” conditioning.  Alice was Percy’s first wife and Jonathan’s mother.  They shared this exchange:

So, I’m just like my father?

Yes you are.  Both of you, in your own way, are always chasing perfect. . .how he ended up with six wives.

The key to life is learning to put up with the imperfections.  If you expect life to be perfect, you will always be disappointed.  If you expect yourself to be perfect, you will never be satisfied.  And if you expect others to be perfect, you will always be alone.

Greenberg Family

Greenberg Family

When it comes to your father
it’s time for you to grow up.
– Mike Greenberg, My Father’s Wives

Ciara Cavanaugh was a model and Percy’s fifth wife. Jonathan met her in London:

He was the most brilliant man I ever met; no one else was close.  But he was depressed.  He hated growing old.  He used to beg me to make him young again.

Don’t be so afraid to die that you forget how to live.

Good advice.

I love a book with an unexpected plot twist at the end of the story.

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