A former gang member turned college professor, paralyzed from the waist down after being shot, mourns his alcoholic father's death and considers the impact of his larger-than-life persona on him and his family.
A sense of tenuousness—or, more specifically, of the fluid interplay between death and life—is a key factor in The Death of My Father the Pope ... the memoir weaves back and forth in time, using memory and language to shade or expose the complexities of the father-son relationship ... both direct and hyperbolic ... This eulogy of sorts offers little room for grief ... The final chapter of the memoir, which details Silva’s conception, presents a creation myth that is the opposite of immaculate, a manifestation not of redemption but of his father’s primal sin ... The power of The Death of My Father the Pope lies in Silva’s willingness to address even this; he never looks away. His book is an unrequited love story, told in fragments, through the lens of death.
... compelling ... Silva’s story is delivered in fragments, nonlinearly, which allows for plenty of reflection and backstory needed to understand what informs the rage expressed in the opening chapter ... The only drawback to Silva’s narrative structure is that it invites too many opportunities for digressions (at one point he even admits to the reader that he’s off-topic). A few times he even sidetracks into over-examinations of facets in Mexican culture, like song lyrics or slang—who is Silva speaking to when he explains the genesis of the word güey? The wordplay in the title, however, does merit Silva’s thorough explanation. Readers will overlook his missteps, however, because Silva’s inner turmoil is relatable, his story engaging, and his arrival to a place of compassion unforgettable and poignant.
... calls to mind a drunken man alone in a bar who wants to 'remember when' with you about each of his scars. His tales are moving. They are also exhausting ... The violence Silva describes is disturbing; and though he seems to acknowledge the chauvinistic aspects of being raised in a family that believes violence is its inheritance, it’s still hard not to cringe at some of the casual misogyny in the book ... Silva seems to be trying to humanize someone who caused immense pain, to understand someone whose crimes, literal and moral, have hurt generations of his family. It’s a grand and necessary undertaking, particularly at such an ethically binary moment in history — when it has become too easy to erase or ignore the good parts of people because they have done terrible things as well. However, the memoir’s exuberance pushes it closer to legend than literature: that is, further out of reach.