If you enjoy reading about unconventional childhoods, have I got a book for you. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood delivers in scenes from a childhood spent in rectories and convents throughout the midwest, as the daughter of a Catholic priest. When her father has an epiphany and converts to Catholicism, he finds a loophole in church law that permits him to become an ordained priest, despite being married and the father of five. Lockwood’s irreverent recollections are as funny as anything I’ve read. Her mother trolls the internet for cautionary tales and bits of gore like “we swallow seven spiders every night” or “Satanists have a new plan to eat the pope.” She relates that before the church allowed her husband to become a priest, she had to take the SAT (Sears Aptitude Test) and the Psychopath test because having a psychopath wife would bring disgrace. In a childhood highlighted by her father’s habit of playing electric guitar loudly and badly and his penchant for wearing nothing but his briefs around the house, Lockwood describes some of the eccentricities of the Catholic religion, including the priestly wardrobe:
When my father started saying the Latin Mass, he gave up short-sleeved shirts and slacks and took to wearing a cassock which is just a long black dress for a man that everyone refuses to call a dress…and the pope wears what a baby would wear to prom.
Years after leaving home, Lockwood and her husband move in with her parents for nine months. Her observations and memories are told with anthropologist’s point of view and are filled with surprising, hilarious,and gorgeous metaphors. It’s not surprising that Lockwood has published two collections of poetry or that her work has appeared in the The New Yorker, among other publications.