The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me

by Bruce S. Feiler

Book, 2010



Call number

653 FEI


New York : William Morrow, c2010.


Author Bruce Feiler was a young father when he was diagnosed with cancer. He instantly worried what his daughters' lives would be like without him. "Would they wonder who I was? Would they yearn for my approval, my love, my voice?" Three days later he came up with a stirring idea: he would reach out to six men from all the passages in his life, and ask them to be present in the passages in his daughters' lives. And he would call this group "The Council of Dads." "I believe my daughters will have plenty of opportunities," he wrote to these men. "They'll have loving families, but they may not have their dad. Will you help be their dad?" This is the inspiring story of what happened next, the work of a master storyteller confronting the most difficult experience of his life and emerging with wisdom and hope.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MusicMom41
What do you do when you make your living by “walking the world” and writing books to share your discoveries with others only to be told at the peak of your career that you might not be able to walk anymore, even worse that you will probably lose your leg and very possibly will die? In this
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personal and powerful narrative Feiler chronicles his “lost year” sharing his journey as he faces his mortality, deals with the stress his illness puts on his family and most importantly faces his biggest concern, how his three year old daughters will be able to remember and know about their father if he isn’t there with them. As he leads us through this most difficult year he also introduces us to six of his closest friends who each embody different aspects of his core values who are asked to be available for his daughters to talk to as they are growing up and learn about their father.

Ultimately this book is about living life to the fullest no matter what the circumstances, about the value of family and friends in all aspects of life, about finding joy in the midst pain and doubt. It is a story of hope, love and triumph in the face of pain and adversity.

A personal note:

Years ago when my sons were growing up in Savannah, Georgia they participated in a special city sponsored summer program called Art in the Park in which two leaders, one specializing in arts and crafts and the other in performing arts, traveled to the different city parks offering a week long program for school age children. One year the performance leader was a young man named Bruce Feiler who made a big impression on my two boys. Each day at lunch they related chapter and verse every thing this leader had done during the morning. When I met him I, too, was attracted by his charm, intelligence and his enthusiasm for the work he was doing with the children. Years later, when he started chronicling his journeys and adventures we felt a personal interest in his discoveries because of the impact he had on our family that long ago summer. This newest book has special meaning for me because ironically, the summer we encountered Bruce was part of my “lost year” fighting possibly terminal cancer.
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LibraryThing member lindapanzo
I had a huge swing in my attitudes towards this book, which recounts (1) Feiler's fight against a deadly cancer, (2) his creation of a "council of dads," six men, influential in his life, who could impart lessons to his girls if he didn't survive his cancer battle, and (3) other family stories.

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started this book two months ago, read about 30 or 40 pages, and absolutely hated it, so I put it aside. About a month ago, I read another 30 or 40 pages and still absolutely hated it. I felt that alternating chapters with the three elements above made the book way too disjointed. The whole set-up was very distracting.

Then, tonight, I thought I'd give it a third (and final) shot. I again started reading and was quickly hooked. I absolutely loved it.

I still think Feiler could've spent far less time on the council parts, or, alternatively, could've woven those parts in better, but, in the end, I realized that this is quite a book. I've read quite a few "how I survived my battle with..." kinds of books and thought his updates to family and friends were the best parts of this book, along with lessons learned. (I've undergone two potentially life-threatening medical conditions myself and know that figuring out when/how to keep family and friends up to date can be difficult.)

Most times, after I finish reading a book, I typically give it away or donate it. This book, however, is a KEEPER. Recommended but with a caution that it can be disjointed and slow, particularly at the beginning.
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LibraryThing member roydknight
I wasn't quite sure which moved me more? His arduous struggle with cancer or his critera and stories about the six men he wished to form his "council of dads" for his daughters. I finally decided, why choose?!

His story is fraught with both laughter, smiles, and pathos. It did take a few chapters
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to get used to the movement between day-to-day struggles with cancer and his male friends who would form his council. But there was no mistaking the intentionality of what he wanted to do and needed to do.

This was a wonderful book to help one reflect on priorities, values, and relationships.
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LibraryThing member jpogue
A prolific and popular author, Bruce Feiler writes a completely different book from his usual non-fiction fare after his year-long battle with Osteosarcoma - a rare cancer in the form of a huge tumor on his left femur. In "The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me"
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Feiler intimately shares his thoughts, hopes, dreams, and memories as he fights for his life in what he calls, without an ounce of self-pity, "The Lost Year".

Inspired by his three-year-old twin daughters, Tybee and Eden, this book alternates between written updates to Feiler's family and friends and descriptions of his relationships with the six men he has chosen to be "The Council of Dads" - the men he hopes will step in to fill the void left in his daughters' life should the cancer win the fight.

This journey is sprinkled generously with happy memories of Feiler's childhood, his marriage, and the birth of his twin girls. He also reminisces at length about his friendships with each of the men composing the Council - some lifetime friends, business colleagues, and others who have deeply touched his life.

Bruce Feiler's love for his wife, Linda, and his children is indeed inspiring. I was, however, a bit disappointed that his faith wasn't more influential in the way he processed his illness and its potential ramifications. I was also surprised that his Jewish background didn't play a bigger role in his choices of men for "The Council of Dads".

This author is at his best when he describes the raw emotions and soul-weariness his illness has wrought. Feiler never flirts with sugary optimism, but draws an amazing strength from loved ones surrounding and supporting him. He writes, "Cancer, I have found, is a passport to intimacy. It's an invitation-maybe even a mandate-to enter the most vital, frightening, and sensitive human arenas. It's a responsibility to address those issues we rarely want to discuss, but we feel enriched when we do."

Bruce Feiler’s journey is truly worth the read! His courage in the face of death, his honesty, his gratitude, his love for his family, and his spirit made me grateful for all the blessings and relationships God has given me. Tybee and Eden are two very lucky little girls!
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LibraryThing member grandpahobo
I enjoyed this book so much, I purchased a copy to give to my daughter and son-in-law (the copy I read was from the library).

The messages and perspectives espoused by the men chosen for the council are varied and insightful.

Frankly, the author comes off as a bit self-absorbed and whiny from my
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point of view. As he describes the ordeal of spending 4 or 5 days in a hospital for symptoms related to chemotherapy, I can't help but think of the millions of people who have similar or worse health problems and can't afford even basic care. But then it occurred to me that perhaps he wrote himself this way to provide a greater contrast with the men on his council.

In any case, this is a book I will give to others and keep on a shelf to re-read (a rarity for me).
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LibraryThing member DuffDaddy
What could be worse than a diagnosis of cancer with one prognosis being death? For father Bruce Feiler, the prospect of his twin daughters growing up without benefit of his "voice" in their lives is intolerable. As such, Bruce initiates a search to identify six men, his Council of Dads, who can
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capture and share the varied facets of his development as a dad and can be his voice should he leave his girls orphans.

Feiler's book captures not only his search for these surrogate dads, it also chronicles his musings on love, life, marriage, fatherhood and facing one's fears. As a storyteller, Bruce is first-rate. As anyone familiar with his other works can attest, Feiler has a talent for infusing the mundane with humor, poignant observations and interesting trivia. He is no less adept in "The Council of Dads".

Throughout his ordeal - with fighting the bone cancer, navigating the strained interpersonal relationships effected by the disease, and in indentifying exactly who will fill his council - Feiler demonstrates his ability to observe and report with sincere appreciation the people, places and things that make up his lost year of treatment.

This book invoked laughter and tears; made me appreciate more my own wife, daughters and family; and fostered a resolve to be a better father and husband. Can any more be asked of any book?
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LibraryThing member TylerHartford
I loved this book. Having 4 children of my own, I found myself in tears at several points which does not happen very often. Bruce is one of my favorite authors, so I have a bias - his Walking the Bible books have inspired me to lead a tour in Israel this fall, and a Egypt/Jordan tour in 2012.

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concept of the council of Dads is so counter to culture that even if he wasn't struggling with cancer, I think he would now say that he would put one together anyways. It is an affirmation of strong friendships and the people who shape us, it is a celebration of family (warts and all) and it is a point blank look at the inevitability of death, which we all will face someday.

His writing is clear, his structure works, and this book is a gift to his family and friends!
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LibraryThing member mbaland
This is a memoir of a dad's experience with cancer and the existential question of his impact as a father on his two young girls after his (potential). To provide for his daughters, he assembles a council of dads to be his voice after he is gone. The story was very well written and engaging
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throughout. It was a memoir of his experience with cancer and treatment, as well as a memory of the men who shaped his life (and whom he would want to influence his daughters).

I would, and have, recommended this book to others who enjoy reading books in this genre.
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LibraryThing member DanaJean
Bruce Feiler found out he had cancer. He feared for his life, but he feared the thought that his daughters would grow up without really knowing who he was as a person. So, he enlisted the help of men who knew him during key points in his life and he charged them with the task of teaching his
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daughters who he was, if he were to die. He called these men his, [Council of Dads].

We learn about Bruce and these men through his lost year and although a very personal story, there are many lessons to be learned for all of us. My mom passed away with breast cancer in 2008 and she was a stoic patient. Not wanting to burden anyone with details or the truth in how she was feeling. This makes me so sad that she didn't share these things with my family. We were there. And the not knowing was painful. I applaud Bruce for being a talker and a planner. He tackled his condition head on just in case the outcome wasn't one of survival. He was prepared and he was determined to prepare his family.

Very much like [The Last Lecture] only Bruce is alive!, I took away courage, strength and love from reading his story.

And just for you Bruce, I'm going to take a walk.
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LibraryThing member Micah
I just finished this and I can't come up with anything to say but: Read this and heed its advice. Life is fickle and every day should be approached as a new adventure.
LibraryThing member hsullivan
Bruce Feiler's story of his experience with cancer and the effects it had on himself and his family was like taking on remodeling your bathroom - you don't know how in-depth it's going to get until you're into it. I came into this book expecting a lot of medical mumbo jumbo, and while there was a
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little, the stories and letters that Feiler shared took precedence over it. This book was very emotional, and it did everything from giving me chills and goosebumps to making me cry to making me laugh out loud. I'd recommend it to anyone... ANYONE. Oh, and be sure to "take a walk with a turtle"!
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LibraryThing member pdaddy1015
The Council of Dads is a moving, powerful tale of Fatherhood and mortality. Bruce Feiler shares openly and honestly about how a health scare in his life causes him to reflect on the men who shaped him and how he desired them to play a role in his daughters' lives.

As a new father (7 month old),
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this book was especially poignant. I of course wondered if I could create my own council of dads to speak wisdom into my daughter's life in case I couldn't. This was a honest story of relationships, connections, and the power of family - in all it's forms.
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LibraryThing member lg4154
I was so grateful to win a copy of this book thru Good Reads First Look. I liked it a lot and it reminded me of combining Randy Pausch and Mitch Albom style of writing with humor, great lines, awesome quotes, and deeply spiritual and moving. The author, Bruce Feiler talks about his childhood and an
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unfortunate accident that happened when he was a kid. Fast forward years later and he learns that he has cancer. As he worries about his twin girls he and his wife decide on the council of Dads, 6 men that Bruce picks to represent him in the event of his death. Each man comes from a different time in Bruce’s life, not family but ones who mean the most to him. I really loved this idea and it really does make you think about your own mortality as you are reading this. He literally goes thru hell and back with his chemotherapy treatments and pain from the surgeries. Bruce is an inspiration and I urge everyone to pick up a copy of this great book!
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LibraryThing member groundhogz
This a great book for anyone who has cancer to read. It encourages you to make changes in your life right now. I liked the letters and the reasoning behind chosing each of the men to be in the Coucil of Dads group. This book will be a treasure for his daughters when they grow up.
LibraryThing member gracemcclain
Bruce Feiler, a young dad diagnosed with cancer when his twin girls are just two-years-old, decides that, in his place should he not be there to raise the girls, he will choose 6 men to "be his voice." These men will guide and encourage the girls and help raise them if and when they are called upon
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in place of their father.

Who would you choose?

In the face of his possible death, Feiler infuses life into his words about choosing these men and why. He picks these men specifically because of what they will teach the girls and teaches us as readers to do some of those things ourselves. He also describes the other men in his life who influenced him and turned him into the man he is. Combined with periodical updates about his "Lost Year" of treatment and recovery, this book is a very real, touching, without being saccharine, and accessible read.
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LibraryThing member biblioholic29
When "Walking the Bible" author Bruce Feiler was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, he wondered what would happen to his twin girls if he died. At only 3-years-old, would they remember him? How could he make sure that they continued to hear his voice? Get his perspective when he was gone. An idea was
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born. He would talk to 6 men from his life, all of whom represented different aspects of his personality, and form a Council of Dads. When the girls wondered how he would feel or what he would say at a given moment, these men would be there, to be his voice.

This book is a combination of letters and emails written to friends and family during his "lost year" as he calls it, and a look back at why he chose each of the 6 men in the council. He gives us glimpses into his own family, the events that made him who he is. He also lets us sit with him in each meeting as he asked his friends to join his Council. Heartbreaking and uplifting, in the end this book is about love and the lengths we will go through to be remembered.
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LibraryThing member realbigcat
The Council of Dads is a vey good book if you can call a story about cancer good. The author Bruce finds out he has cancer in his leg probably a result of a childhood accident. Bruce has 2 young daughters and now he realizes one of a Fathers greatest fears, that he won't be around to watch them
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grow up. Being an older father myself with young children this is one of my greatest fears. I can't even imagine what he went thru trying to contemplate his diagnosis.
Bruces response to his cancer and his unknown future is to form what he calls the "Council of Dads." These are men who had the greatest influence on his life and would be able to help his daughters grow up and know about their father.
This is a well written story of his battle with cancer and how he formed the council of dads. As another reviewer said the book is a mix of Mitch Albom and Randy Pautch and I would agree it has the same feel. The feelings are genuine and nothing is held back and there is a mix of great quotes and other inspiring poems and stories.
While my heart goes out to Bruce in the horrible battle he had with cancer my only complaint about the book is that the group of Dads seems almost to perfect, almost fictional. Anyway, it's a great inspiring book that makes you realize how short life can be and how quick your life can be turned upside down and inside out. Bruce has a great family and groups of friends that supported him in his battle and I wish him the best. If you like an inspiring story then I would recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member jocraddock
Two young girls whose young Dad gets a surprising and serious cancer diagnosis. Depressing, right? No, Bruce Feiler has written one of the most touching and meaningful stories I've read in a long time. Yes, he's still alive (which certainly helps considering the overall tone of the book!), but it's
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his courage and forthright assertion to prepare for his girls to know him should he *not* survive which leads one to seriously think and ponder about life, friends, family, love and legacy.
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LibraryThing member Wings3496
Bruce Feiler's "The Council of Dads" is a guided tour through the authors year-long battle with cancer, and his idea to leave a legacy for his two children. His idea was to form a Council of Dads, a group of his closest friends who represented parts of him, and who could be called upon to help his
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daughters remember their father, and "Help be their Dad." The book alternates between letters Feiler sent to family and friends detailing the progression of his medical and family situation, and descriptions of the six men who would form the Council of Dads.

Feiler says, "Cancer, I have found, is a passport to intimacy," and the book closely follows his own intimate relationships with his daughters, his wife, and his closest friends. The book beckons the reader to step into his small trusted circle, and experience Feiler's emotions throughout his struggle. While providing an honest, warm-hearted, and love-filled story, the book doesn't leap into any newfound territory, nor does it differ greatly from the numerous other cancer-survival stories on shelves everywhere.

Overall, "The Council of Dads" is a good quick read for those who wish to see the intimacy that can originate in tragedy, and possibly gain insight into their own friendships.
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LibraryThing member srtrent
Do you ever stop to wonder who would teach your children the truths you want them to know if you were not there? The author of this book did. He was diagnosed with a cancer and knew that there was a distinct possibility that he would not be able to be there to teach his girls what they needed to
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know to live a full life. He examined his own life and found the six men who he felt could pass on the truths he so desperately wanted his girls to know...and invited them to become an intimate part of their lives. Little did he know just how well they would rise to the challenge. This is more than a story of a man's struggle with cancer. This is the story of his struggle to remain with his children even after his possible death.
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LibraryThing member KatKealy
I highly recommend this book. I'm giving it to my sister, since I think she'll really enjoy it, too. The idea of getting a group of people together to represent you as your daughters grow up is so touching. The way the story is told really makes you connect with the character and pull for him
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throughout the book.

This book is a very fast read, since it's well written and interesting. If you like true stories with families handling illness, this is a great choice.
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LibraryThing member gpsman
"The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me" tells the story of a young father diagnosed with cancer and wanting to provide a Father figure substitute to his girls in case of his death as well as a chronicle of the difficulties and lessons of fighting the disease. I
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have a wide breadth in my attitude towards this book, which tells the stories of Feiler's fight against cancer, his invention of a council of six men to serve as surrogate dads for his daughters if he didn't survive and enough about his family to give substance to the others; a story about what he calls "The Lost Year."

The book was not easy to read. This wasn't because of grammar or situations. There was points at which I simply didn't enjoy the storytelling. I kept picking the book up because what he was recounting was sincere and important enough to read through. It was at times a bit of a jerky ride. Eventually I decided to credit the author for trying to convey the jerky ride his life was during the episodes related. He is, after all, a respected writer of books about travel and making journeys. This is a travelogue of a very personal journey.

I don't want to leave the impression that the book is morose. It isn't! It is filled with happy episodes of his family, his marriage and friends. The afterglow of "Council" is nostalgic, melancholy and ultimately warm and hopeful. You will reconsider your efforts at living life and the value of your friends and loved ones. It is worth the read.
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LibraryThing member freckles1987
A poignant memoir of an illness by one of my favorite authors, Bruce Feiler. At times tear-worthy, and at others quirky and funny, this short book was both uplifting and challenging. Feiler describes his Lost Year, a year of chemotherapy and surgery in a battle against cancer. The concern and love
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for his daughters is both the topic and the most gripping part of the text. The idea of a Council of Dads is both beautiful and tragic, a logical response to the all-too-real prospect of death. Other reviews have covered the content of the book, I have only to say that The Council of Dads is a touching and wide-ranging family epic, a worthy legacy to Feiler's daughters, as well as a testament to Feiler's own strength, creativity, and wisdom.
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LibraryThing member EllenH
Imagine being diagnosed with cancer & having 2 young children to raise? Bruce Feiler does, and this is his sad & loving journey into making sure his daughters would have abit of their Father in their lives through the men who knew him. I hope those people never have to step in for him, but he did a
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wonderful thing in gathering these men to be there for his wife & daughters if he goes
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LibraryThing member lisat781
Bruce Feiler has written a wonderful book about facing mortality and the prospect of leaving his family behind after being diagnosed with cancer. I thought this book was well written, easy to read and authentic. It was a refreshing perspective by the author to revisit old friendships and ask for
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help from those friends in keeping his memory alive for his girls if he should die. It amazes me that Mr Feiler could actually have the clarity to offer this gift to his family as he dealt with such a difficult diagnosis. I would highly recommend this book!!
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Original publication date



006177877X / 9780061778773

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