Moehringer’s father’s alcoholism and abandonment create a void that he grapples with throughout his life. His mother’s constant anxiety trigger nightmares, dread, and a strong desire to change their circumstance- that lead him to graduate school at Yale.
Moehringer finds a sense of belonging, validation, and respect from his Uncle Charlie and the group of men- bartenders and regulars- at the town’s favored pub. The title is a clever play on words- as a boy, Moehringer is raised, literally tended to by the bartenders and regulars at the pub.
When he is older and working at a dead-end job, at the pub he finds solace in times of despair and champions that always celebrate him. But this story is about more than just a pub and the borderline alcoholics that occupy it. It is about their heart-wrenching stories, boisterous voices, zany personalities, high highs and low lows, and the tacit understanding and respect for one another.
J.R. Moehringer’s memoir is a timeless story about the ups and downs of boyhood and what it means to become a man and living that out. Ultimately it is one man’s remarkable tale of leaving the pack and forging his own path.
Like so many great stories this is one about overcoming adversity. But it stands out because Moehringer has a way with words. His writing is striking, it has the appropriate detail so that it never seems synthetic or unnecessarily florid- there is a fine line that Moehringer skillfully treads. (I have highlighted more words in this book than usual and each such word seems as though it were masterfully chosen and placed).
The account seems as though it were taken from a young man’s journal- deeply personal, surprisingly funny, and painfully heartbreaking. The unfiltered train of thought he shares is endearing and made me crack up. It is a close look at the thoughts and desires that guide a young man’s behavior and ambition.
I have laughed out loud, sympathized with J.R.’s predicament, and I’ve spent summer days at the beach and evenings at the bar. Every character’s personality shines through- even the pub that the book seems to revolve around- and you can not only picture the people and the bar but hear the voices and soundscapes. My favorite thing is the immersive experience Moehringer takes the reader on.
This excerpt shows what I mean about his way with words,
“When the men played poker at Gilgo, for instance, the wind whipping off the water was always a problem, and it was my responsibility to hold the face cards and the pot onto the blanket. It was a job for an octopus, but I managed, and when a card flew I flew after it.”
🕵 How I Discovered It
✍️ My Favorite Quotes
- “I hate when people ask what a book is about. People who read for plot, people who suck out the story like the cream filling in an Oreo, should stick to comic strips and soap operas. What’s it about? Every book worth a damn is about emotions and love and death and pain. It’s about words. It’s about a man dealing with life. Okay?”
- “I don’t know. Sometimes I try to say what’s on my mind and it comes out sounding like I ate a dictionary and I’m shitting pages. Sorry”
- “Fear will be the fuel for all your success, and the root cause of all your failures, and the underlying dilemma in every story you tell yourself about yourself. And the only chance you’ll have against fear? Follow it. Steer by it. Don’t think of fear as the villain. Think of fear as your guide, your pathfinder—your Natty”