Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Patricia Lockwood had a childhood unlike most people, being even uncommon for the realm of religious upbringing. In her memoir titled Priestdaddy, Lockwood looks back on her childhood, adolescence and young adulthood which were strongly marked by her father, Greg Lockwood, a larger-than-life Catholic priest who defied all conventions.
Table of contents
Patricia Lockwood Looks Back on Herself
Memoirs are the kinds of books which, for the most part, we expect to see out of people in their senior years, brimming with life experience to share with the rest of the world. It’s not every day we see the publication of a biography liked Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood, who was in her mid-thirties when she released her charming and humorous past to the world.
Starting at the logical point, the book introduces us to the central figure of Patricia Lockwood‘s life, her father, Greg Lockwood. Though he was a Catholic priest his whole life, Greg’s lifestyle and habits were about as far as one could go from the stereotypical view of priesthood, mirroring the chaotic and freewheeling nature of the 1970s in the United States.
Patricia herself left the Church’s county years ago, but an unexpected circumstance forces her husband and her to move back into her parents rectory. However, after so many years away from the family nest, Patricia‘s world has become quite different from her parents’, and for both better and worse, their views begin to collide.
The memoir is essentially split in two intertwining sections, with the first one being dedicated to Patricia‘s reminiscences about her formative years. Rather than simply recounting all she remembers, she instead chooses various key moments which marked her as a young girl and recounts them with the insight we (hopefully) gain in our later years.
If you are not friends with women, they are theoretical to you.― Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy
The second part of the book is dedicated to the eight-month period during which she and her husband lived at the Lockwood household. Namely, she recounts her husband’s struggle to truly understand the often cruel laws of Catholicism, as well as her education of a seminarian also living with them.
The Profane Catholic in Priestdaddy
As implied by the title of the book as well as my short summary of it above, Father Greg Lockwood is by far and large the main focus of the book from start to finish. The more we learn about the man, the more I can see him being a polarizing figure, especially depending on where one was raised.
At the start, I found his whole lot and approach to life to have been more on the humorous side than anything, with his holiness being put further and further into question with nearly every word he says. Patricia Lockwood shares quite a lot of vividly-depicted memories of his behaviour in the household, and they all serve to pain the picture of a man who was larger-than-life in his own ways.
However, as the book progressed further and further, we do get an exposition of the “darker side”, if you will, of growing up under Father Greg Lockwood‘s roof. Often times close-minded, profane, and even depraved, I found his company less enjoyable during such times. Consistently teetering from humorous to troubling, I can see how some people might have trouble with a whole book about him.
It did feel to me like the author was about as impartial as we can expect in her recollections about Father Greg, and it didn’t seem like she was trying to portray him in any specific light, other than the one she remembers him in of course. There’s always a question of subjective bias in a biographies, such demons are unavoidable, but I felt they were kept to a minimum here.
While Greg Lockwood was virtually always surrounded by the seven other members of the household, I found it slightly disappointing we didn’t get more information about their perspectives on the whole thing. Then again, they might have simply been outside of the author’s reach.
An Ecclesiastical Household
While Patricia‘s father may certainly not have been a common priest, we still get a wealth of fascinating insight into what it’s like behind closed doors for a Catholic minister’s family, and we get to see it both from the author’s perspective when she was a young girl, and then once again years later down the line.
Personally, I never had much of an idea about how such a family lived, beyond them saying grace at dinner and making prayers every night. While I’m certain there are still plenty of details left for me to uncover, I feel like Priestdaddy gave me a rather comprehensive and digestible overview of the dynamics at work in such a household.
Part of what you have to figure out in this life is, Who would I be if I hadn’t been frightened?― Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy
On one hand, the nurturing love, warmth, acceptance and understanding appear in certain forms, but on the other hand, they are often counteracted by the oppressive nature of the restrictive existence led by the family.
Overall though, I would say Priestdaddy has more of a humorous tone than anything else, and I would attribute this to the author’s style. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as saying Patricia Lockwood has a unique and original voice, one I hope to recognize more of in the future as she develops it. She has a special way of wrapping in comedy even the more difficult of subjects.
|352||Riverhead Books||May 1 2018||978-0399573262|
If there was one flaw with the book, it was how it progressed from about three-quarters in and onward, with the author’s proficiency as a poet making itself known. The language does tend to become more descriptive and wordy in general, sometimes to the detriment of the pace. However, I didn’t find it a big enough deal to stop me from finishing it.
The Final Verdict
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood is quite an original and unusual memoir which, despite its faults, offers interesting insight into Catholic upbringing as well as the life of a priest who was certainly cut from a different cloth. If you’re interested in learning about life in the household of the irreverent Father Lockwood through the scope of humour, then I think you will enjoy what the book has to offer.
Patricia Lockwood is an American poet, essayist and novelist whose career began with the publication of her memoir, titled Priestdaddy. Her debut novel, No One is Talking About This, was released in 2021 and earned a fair share of critical acclaim. Additionally, she has also published various poetry collections, some of them for the New York Times.