Trying to fill his father’s shoes

Spencer Wise’s debut novel features a fictionalized version of himself – a Jewish Bostonian living in China and working for his family’s footwear company.

By ELAINE MARGOLIN
June 7, 2018 19:43
Shoemaker (Illustrative)

Shoemaker (Illustrative). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Sometimes, first-time novelists hide behind their own fiction to protect themselves from difficult truths they are not yet willing to confront head-on. Spencer Wise seems to fall into this category.

A few years ago, he wrote a scathingly touching nonfiction essay about his conflicted but loving relationship with his father that revealed a raw and courageous authenticity that is missing from his promising first novel. His essay, “The Second-Worst Rug My Father’s Ever Seen,” told of a time when his father came to assist him at prep school where he was struggling with a course he was in danger of failing. His father stayed with him for several days, prodding him along to complete the assignments necessary to pass the course. By the time all was finished, he felt a strange mixture of resentment and gratitude towards his dad. Yet, there was something about his father’s assuredness and sustained attention toward him that moved him to write.

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