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The Advocate

Fatherless by James Dobson & Kurt Bruner

Reviewed by Marshall Hughes

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This is a book which will force readers to ponder the future and motivate them to dialogue with friends about its troubling themes.

It is the year 2042, and the world is surely a different place. In America, like much of the rest of the world, there are not enough people working and paying taxes for the elderly and handicapped to be taken care of properly. Men have become so emasculated that many just stay home and play video games or take part-time jobs, unable to form proper relationships.

Marriage is something often linked to being a religious nut, and any couple (or person) with two or more children is derisively referred to as "breeders." The handicapped and aged are referred to as "debits." The debits are encouraged to submit themselves to the government for "transitions." Transitions are, of course, the nomenclature for euthanasia.

Transitions are said to be heroic because money that would be used for care for debits can be used for the living. Needless to say, governments are short on money (I wonder how that happened?) and the less-than-productive are in their sights. Some might be reminded of recent skirmishes over President Obama's plans for so-called death panels.

For those following trends in America and around the world, this 2042 world in Dr. James Dobson's Fatherless is not at all hard to imagine. In fact, it is rapidly approaching. Japan is one of the countries mentioned in the book as being in even worse shape than America. As of Feb. 2011, more than 23% of Japanese were 65 years old or older. The Japanese Healthy Ministry estimates the nation's total population will fall by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005 to 95.2 million by 2050.
Fatherless is about the future, but the seeds of this future have already been planted and are poking their heads out of the dirt even today.

The book is interesting on its own merits, but is probably best utilized in a book club setting or as part of a discussion group. It would serve as an excellent discussion starter…or fight starter, depending on whom you are talking about. There are both secular and Christian group guides available.

Although politics are meticulously avoided, at least concerning current political party names and figures, it would be easy to make a case that many of the problems in the book have been caused by recent political decisions, decisions such as financially punishing marriage and family. These are things seen in America today. Governmental destruction of the family unit does have consequences.

Dr. Dobson is a world-famous pediatrician and founder of Focus on the Family, but he is not yet a world-famous author of fiction. The idea, subject and intentions of the book are great, but it could be argued that the execution is a bit spotty at times.

There are a dozen or more characters, including a number of major characters, introduced in the first 13 pages of print, which might be confusing for some. In a few places the dialogue borders on the less than believable, and one of the main protagonists, Julia, seems a little contrived at times. There are multiple protagonists in the book, not all of whom cross paths by the end of the book, so you might wonder up until the end when the pieces will all tie together.

While the author seems to have spent a good deal of energy making educated and provocative guesses as to what the world will be like almost 30 years from now, there are a few anacronisms. There is also one love story angle which seems forced and was not developed well.

Still, despite these minor shortcomings, this is a book which will force readers to ponder the future and motivate them to dialogue with friends about its troubling themes. We should individually and as a society prepare for the future. If we don't, 2042 might well be our world in less than 30 years.

Although this book is not technically perfect, it is an extremely important book. Do yourself a favor and read it.

NOTE: Fatherless is the first in a series of three books written by Dobson. The others are called Childless and Godless.

Marshall HughesMarshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.