Timothy J. Flaherty’s book, Grandview Days: A McKeesport Memoir, started out as a collection of some entertaining, and some poignant memories of a Steel Valley, Pennsylvania childhood, but evolved into a much deeper and broader understanding of the complexity of our humanity, and the civilizing process of growing up. He felt compelled to tell his story because a somewhat dysfunctional upbringing like his continues to be all too common. As a child, he felt chronically unsafe due to the unpredictable, sometimes violent behavior of his father. What would be a tender and forgiving man one day could be a raging, violent tyrant the next. “The scars of childhood are not simply left behind,” says Flaherty. “Fear, hurt, and anger from the past can lead to unhealthy behaviors, anxiety, and depression. There is a tendency to repeat family of origin patterns in adulthood that makes accepting the importance of one’s own childhood so critical.” However, he is convinced that no parent, as with no human being of any station in life, is unidimensional. “People are complicated by their sometimes rough treatment by the world,” he says, “which can affect their functioning as parents and as role models, but if, in the long run, one tries their best, that is nearly always seen and appreciated for what it is, and is enough.” Flaherty remembers his parents, grandparents, brothers, friends, schoolmates, neighbors, teachers, and local shopkeepers all so vividly. “Even the people who challenged or frightened us taught us hard lessons necessary for successful living,” he says. In our modern discussions of values, corporate ethics, and political accountability, he believes we would do well to remind ourselves that it is the crucible of family, neighborhood, and community that very early in our lives forces the fusion of our precious ethical mettle. The author considers that the freedom of access to information, rational thought, and the scientific (empirical) method for the slow discovery of truth are replacing narrow thinking and ontological divides that only serve to separate peoples worldwide. “We need only glance at the day’s headlines to know that guilt, fear, and religious martyrdom are poor motivators of honorable and altruistic behavior,” he says. In Grandview Days, Flaherty also discusses the environmental mayhem he has lived through, such as the despoliation of the western Pennsylvania riverine areas, primarily by the steel industry of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the largest oil spill in history, when the British Petroleum deep-water drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The overall message he conveys is that we are all role models for the next generation of Mother Earth’s guardians. A compelling, amusing, and highly motivating read, this book is sure to appeal to a wide-ranging audience.
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