When an ‘80s New Waver starts liking country music, is it a sign of maturity? More than just selling all his Depeche Mode and Flock of Seagulls records, stay-at-home dad Bill Angus has some serious house-cleaning to do. With his wife Julie bringing home the bacon and their son Sean flexing wings of independence, Bill has run out of excuses not to finish his long-overdue PhD thesis. When Julie’s old flame Blake Morgan returns to Winnipeg – with his wife and kids, mansion and high-powered career, Bill realizes he needs to grow up. But rather than looking in the proverbial mirror, Bill tries to rescue his stay-at-home dad neighbours from their foibles.
"Dadolescence sounds like a perfect fall read for the Generation X man in your life." — Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X Blog
"In Bill Angus, Armstrong has created a character who is fallibly human, complex and likeable." — Shawn Syms, Winnipeg Review
"[Armstrong’s] book pokes fun at all kinds of local [Winnipeg] settings and cultural quirks, from St. John's-Ravenscourt and the Winnipeg Folk Festival to Mountain Equipment Co-op and Mennonites' affinity for garage sales." — Alison Mayes, Winnipeg Free Press
"Through it all, Armstrong's characters never cease to amuse … The result is pure, page-turning hilarity — and, for Bill, a little bit of enlightenment." — Ria Julien, Winnipeg Free Press
"Although this is a comic novel, Armstrong takes on serious social issues in his story of Bill and friends." — Karen Green, Prairie Books NOW
"Dadolescence is entertaining and amusing. But like all good novels, it can be read on several levels. Beneath the surface humor, it raises profound questions about meaning and identity in contemporary North America. It is a packed, layered work that should be read more than once." — Graeme Voyer, Prairie Fire Magazine
"Bill Angus is a Morrissey-impersonating, Foucault-quoting, Clash fan. In other words, my kind of dad. In a maddeningly funny twist on Iron John, Bill begins a journey of mind and deed. He struggles to find his place in the world as his virility drops, his belly sags, and a rival circles the homestead. This witty meditation on manly manliness is also a head-butt at academic pretension and the Sword of Damocles that is the PhD thesis. A new novel so good, you'll actually finish it." — Al Rae, Artistic Director and Co-founder, CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
Suggested Book Club Questions for Dadolescence
- Bill and his two friends are all indulging in fantasies of traditional masculinity (explorer, builder, inventor, cop, cowboy). Why? What personal reasons do they have for their fantasy obsessions? To what historical forces and social trends are they responding?
- With his constant references to history, philosophy, literature, soccer, and pop culture, Bill is a bit of a “fact collector.” Why is that so many men hoard and obsess over facts the way Bill does?
- Bill, Dave and Mark are all stay-at-home fathers, but none of them identifies as such and none of them chose to be stay-at-home fathers. How does this fit with your experience of stay-at-home fathers? Do men who opt for a role in the home do so out of a desire to be nurturing and progressive or as a response to job loss?
- Since the recession struck in 2008, manufacturing and construction industries have taken a disproportionate share of job losses. How do you think men affected by those losses are coping? Do you think many of them are responding with the fantasies of avoidance practised by Bill, Dave and Mark, or is that the sort of luxury that only a fortunate few can afford?
- How would you describe Bill’s politics? Is he a reactionary, longing for the time when men were men and women were women? How about his thoughts on anthropology, imperialism, and crime? Is Bill a racist?
- Let’s talk about class for a moment. Is Bill sympathetic to the poor or afraid of them? What’s behind his obsession with “Barking’s Boy Dad” and the girls from Magdalene Alternative High School? What role does Cody Farrand play in the novel?
- New York Times journalist David Brooks coined the term “Bo-Bo” a few years ago to describe people who strive to be both Bohemian and bourgeois at the same time. What evidence suggests that Bill is a Bo-Bo?
- Contrast Bill’s youthful obsession with 1980s British post-punk and pop music with his grudging acceptance of contemporary Red State country music. What made him an anglophile in his teens and twenties? What is drawing him to cheesy contemporary country today?
- Despite Bill’s anxieties, he and Julie seem to have a loving marriage. What does Julie see in Bill? Or would you say is this a marriage that is held together only by parental duty?
- How do you think Julie is likely to react when she learns about Bill’s suspicions at the end of the novel? Do you think they will be able to work through this?
- Consider Bill’s thoughts in chapter 2 about what life would be like with a job at Force Financial. Would that be a dream or a sentence for him? At the end of the postscript, what do you think the prognosis is for him professionally?
- How does Sean feel toward his father? After the novel ends, how do you see Sean’s relationship with Bill going? Is Sean likely to follow his father into a dysfunctional adult life?
- When Bill is imagining himself being interviewed on CBC, is he fantasizing about being a great anthropologist or about being famous? And if the answer is “the latter” what does that say about both Bill and our culture?
- In Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, the music-aficionado protagonist makes the observation that to the music obsessive “What really matters is what you like, not what you are like.”To what extent does this describe Bill’s worldview?
- Phillip Larkin’s most famous poem begins: “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad.” Is this true in Dadolescence? If so, how?
- Dadolescence is filled with idealists who have made peace with reality. How do you think Julie feels about her decision to forego being a crusading lawyer in order to work as an HR consultant? Does she enjoy her work? Blake implies that youthful ideals of heroism are something we need to abandon in order to have a real life. Is he right?
- To borrow the language of the 12-step movement, are the women in Dadolescence enablers? If so, what do they do that enables the men to remain in their fantasy worlds? Should they have kicked their husbands to the curb long ago?
- Bill is highly critical of people he considers poseurs (Mark, art-collecting lawyers, Folk Festival hippies). Why? What are his poses? Is he aware of his own poses? Is he, God help us all, Holden Caulfield grown up with a house in the suburbs?
- The people whose jobs we know about in Dadolescence -- Julie, Sheila, Gary, Blake -- work in fields like human resources, health care and financial services. To what extent are the anxieties in the novel an illustration of the effects of the transition to a post-modern, service-based economy?
- Does Bill know for sure what’s in the letter from the Faculty of Graduate Studies or does his just have a strong suspicion? Is he ever really able to put that letter out of his mind? What does he do to distract himself from the letter?
- Is Bill’s procrastination the result of poor organization skills or a symptom of some deeper problem?
- Bill wakes up one day to a headline on the radio about a mental health crisis among Canadian men. We often hear that, though men are more prone to addiction and several times more likely to commit suicide, men are much less likely to seek mental health treatment. Do Bill and his friends need therapy? Do their coping strategies make things worse for themselves? How would Bill react to the suggestion that he’d be better off with a prescription for anti-depressants?
- Is it true that all great road-trip music comes from North America? If so, why?
Born in Alberta, Bob Armstrong has a journalism diploma, a history degree, and an expired Wilderness First Aid and Outdoor Leadership certificate. After working as a newspaper reporter and editor, he oversaw media relations and public affairs for the Universities of Calgary and Manitoba, and is now the speech writer for Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor. A full-time freelance writer, playwright, and stay-at-home dad, Bob lives with his family in Winnipeg.