Book Review – The Patience of Job

Book Review – The Patience of Job

by AngloStore’s resident book reviewer, John Spychka

A. J. (Job) Patstone
“The Patience of Job”
Published by PublishAmerica

I was lucky enough to be at A.J. Patstone’s first ever book launching at the AngloStore in Quebec City. “The Patience of Job” is Patstone’s second book and his first work of non-fiction. The book is pretty much autobiographical as it chronicles Patstone’s troubled relationship with his father against a backdrop of middle class Canada in the forties, fifties, and sixties.

The book is divided into two parts: Part one lays out, mostly in chronological order, anecdotes and stories of Patstone’s youth. Part two, a much shorter portion of the book, documents parts of the author’s adult life and brings us up to date with where he is today.

“The Patience of Job” chronicles a time in Canada when everything was new and fresh, an era of discovery and potential. It gives a first-hand view of what it was like to grow up in Canada in the middle of the twentieth century with an eccentric father who had very particular ideas about how to raise a family. Patstone’s stream of consciousness type of narrative brings the reader into the stories and makes this an intimate read even though, at one point in the book, the author surmises that he can never be close to anyone. He believes that since his family moved around a lot, he was continually breaking off friendships and having to start again in a new city. This taught him to keep a safe emotional distance from people.

One of the stories I found interesting was when Patstone was a baby and caught a cold and had complications. He was having difficulty breathing to the point of falling into semi-coma. His mother called his father at work who said it was nothing and that the boy would be fine. Not convinced and in a state of panic because she did not have a vehicle to drive her son to the hospital, his mother called a neighbour who drove them to the nearest hospital. After running some tests, the doctor said Patstone had severe pneumonia and could have died. As much as this story illustrates to what degree Patstone’s father was an inadequate parent, it also illustrates what a caring parent his mother was.
As far as this reader could tell, Patstone’s mother did her best to keep the family together. Although she had a very good head on her shoulders and stood up for her children, she was no match for Cyril.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book’s pan-Canadian scope. The book moves around a lot, touching many of the provinces or regions of Canada. With each new city came a new house, which represented very specific memories and events that marked Patstone for the rest of his life.

What I liked less were some of the grammatical, spelling, and stylistic mistakes. I felt the book needed a good edit. However, the anecdotes and stories are interesting and carry the book through some of the tougher passages. Although the book’s underlying tone is serious, there are some funny or even sarcastic parts.

Patstone’s father was eccentric to say the least. I could not begin to analyze why he did the things he did, but he does present an interesting study for anyone interested in psychology or human behaviour. Patstone does not talk about his father’s past very much, which could have shed some light into his odd character. I suspect as well that some of his father’s actions were simply a sign of the times. Our values as parents have obviously evolved; what was accepted behaviour back then would not be tolerated today.
Patstone refers to his father by his first name, “Cyril” throughout the book, with one or two exceptions. When asked at the book launching why he does not call him “Dad” or “Father,” he replied with what seemed like a wry smile as if to say “that says it all.” I found this reaction interesting because we all have differing views of what a father should be, much of which is determined by our own parents and what we read about or observe in our social surroundings. Perhaps Cyril thought he was being a wonderful father compared to his father. In any case, Cyril made life for his son and family unbearable at times, according to Patstone.

As Patstone points out, in the end, as parents, we do the best we can. There is no script for parenting and we must make up much of it along the way. He knows he is not the perfect father and with this knowledge he is perhaps able to forgive his father. And with forgiveness comes freedom.

A. J. Patstone is now working on his third book, a work of fiction.

Categories: News, Quebec Literature

About Author

John Spychka

John Spychka has dabbled in writing since the early ’90s. His closest claim to fame came around 2006 when his work, “The Slava Ladies League Christmas Pyrogy Fiasco,” was shortlisted for the annual Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Calgary and also has a Master’s in English Literature from Université Laval. He has travelled extensively, having lived in Japan and France. John is a manager in a multi-national software company and dreams to one day be able to live off his writing. He lives in Quebec City with his wife and two children.