Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Shyster's Daughter, a Memoir by Paula Priamos

The Shyster's Daughter
is a wonderfully written charged memoir—utterly absorbing and packed with sharp details. Direct, evocative, emotionally honest, brave, and funny, Priamos' voice shines.The Shyster's Daughter is a suspenseful investigative journey, but its emotional core vibrates with Priamos' homage to her deeply flawed and deeply loved father, and to their complicated and enduring relationship."—Victoria Patterson, author of This Vacant Paradise and Drift
The last time my father calls is shortly before the anniversary of his disbarment to tell me he's just cheated death. On his end, there's background noise—a restaurant, a bar or somewhere far sleazier. Since the divorce he licks his wounds at a topless strip club inGarden Grove called the Kat Nip.
The Shyster's Daughter is a detective memoir of a Greek family living in Southern California in the late 1900s. The author, whose father was an attorney with clients who were often questionable characters knowing a side of him unseen by his family, looks into his death and finds more questions than answers.

Paula Priamos

Paula Priamos' writing has been featured in various magazines and in the anthology Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. She teaches at California State University and lives in Southern California with her husband and stepsons. This is her first book.

Guest Post

     In The Shyster’s Daughter I tell two different stories.  The first one is the story about my father’s mysterious death.  The night before he died he called to tell me he’d just cheated death.  A gunman in a ski mask had approached my father’s car and threatened to blow his brains out.  Typical of my father, a big mad Greek defense lawyer, he instinctively flipped the gunman off, then drove away.  The next morning my father was found dead.  This phone call has haunted me for years and it was only recently that I was able to confront what that’s meant to me, being one of the last people he spoke to leading up to his death.

     The second story is about being raised by my father and heeding, as a teen, his blunt advice on important things such as dating.  “Never trust a guy whose car is too clean.  A sure sign he wants to keep you in it too long.” Or my philandering yet charming uncle’s words of wisdom, (he briefly lived with us and was also a defense lawyer).  “I shouldn’t be telling you this,” he said to me, “but I don’t want you getting hurt by a man like me.  Make no mistake, they’re all like me.”

     In the book I tell dual narratives, sections every couple chapters titled “What They Told Me After He Died,” which the reader can participate in figuring out what must’ve happened to my father that night.  These quotes are from family members, former clients and shady people who knew him the last years of his life after he was disbarred for embezzlement.  The other narrative is linear and gives life to my relationship with my father, the sometimes comical ways he took care of me like spiking my orange juice with ouzo when I complained in the middle of the night of a sore throat or emboldening me with words of resilience when I felt at my weakest.

     My book has been called a detective memoir with shades of L.A. hardboiled noir.  And while I am flattered at those who take the time to analyze the construct, at the heart of The Shyster’s Daughter is a daughter who loved her flawed and oftentimes very funny father and became a much stronger woman for it.

My Review:

          Having read many memoirs over the past few years, I was not especially intrigued by The Shyster's Daughter. The story has its uniqueness, as each memoir does, but I felt the story was a little mundane at times and caught up in minute details, and I found myself skimming the pages. I was also a little distracted by the grammatical errors in the book.

          Having said that, the author did a great job immersing the reader into her Greek culture, and the way the culture reflected in the behavior of her parents, grandparents, and extended family.

          The author’s family definitely had its share of shadiness and troubles and I thought the title quite appropriate for the book. I thought it admirable that the author was so candid about her father’s shady business deals, something most of us might be tempted to hide from the world. The author also showed great courage in confronting the sexual abuse as well as her own craziness in stalking her father’s girlfriend. The fine line between loyalty to self and loyalty to children was crossed many times in the author’s life and her story reflects this.

          From the book: “The final lesson he (father) would teach the daughter who stood by him after the break-up of the family is perhaps one of the most important he ever taught me. It’s not so much that he didn’t want me to completely love Jim and start our own family, but rather that I remember to fulfill my dreams and goals along the way.”

If you found my review helpful, please consider voting "yes" for my review on Amazon by following the link below. Thanks!!

The Shyster's Daughter can be found on Amazon

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