Not My Father’s Son

Listening to Alan Cumming’s 2014 memoir was just as engrossing the second time as it was the first. His slightly gruff voice with its pleasing Scottish accent tells a moving and fascinating story. In fact, there are actually three stories going on at once!

I became a fan of Alan Cumming through his role as Eli Gold in The Goodwife. He is yet another actor who seems to effortlessly pull off an American accent — I was so surprised to find that he is Scottish! After hearing him interviewed about this memoir, I was really intrigued. And once I discovered audiobooks, I wanted to give this one a try.

Cumming had been approached by the British show of Who Do You Think You Are and was interested in trying to unravel the mystery surrounding his maternal grandfather. Tommy Darling had not really come home after World War II and had apparently been killed in an accident with a gun in Malaysia. Cumming’s mother, Mary Darling, had always wanted to know what happened to her father but facts were few and far between.

Just before he was to film the show, Cumming got a call from his brother. Tom had been asked by their father to pass on a message — Alan was not his son! This dealt Cumming an emotional wallop and was yet another mystery. Was this true? And if so, why wait until now to tell him? Navigating the feelings and finding out the truth is the second story of the book.

The book also explores Cumming’s childhood, where he endured abuse at the hands of his father. This could potentially be a trigger for some listeners, as he describes the incidents and their impact quite vividly. But he uses them to connect to the effects on his adult life and to how he feels about his father’s shocking revelation.

The stories are told with humour and passion, as you would expect from such a talented actor and performer. The profanity used is only enough to convey the emotions being experienced. As he draws comparisons between himself and his grandfather and reflects on his relationship with his father, we are let in on the happenings in his current world (2010) in the business and with his greatest support, his husband Grant.

This moving and well-told memoir is well worth a listen. The audiobook is available on Audible and on iTunes and won two 2015 Audie Awards, for Autobiography/Memoir and for Narration by the Author.

6 thoughts on “Not My Father’s Son

  1. I think Scottish and Irish people have it easier because their pronunciation preserves the rhotic (unlike the English). Looks like there’s a paper book for this — have put it in the “reserve” queue at the library!


  2. I’ve been curious about this book, so I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. have you seen him in the mini-series ‘The Runaway’? I originally watched it for Jack O’Connell but Alan stole the show, Imo. he plays a transvestite who takes a young runaway girl under her wing. I really liked the character, full of vulnerability and strength in equal measure.


    • No I haven’t seen him in that, but he was working on that production during the time described in the book. He has some interesting and funny things to say about having to dress like a woman!


  3. I know Alan Cumming (he was Mr Elton in the ‘Emma’ movie with Gwyneth Paltrow from 1996) but didn’t realize he was doing US TV now. I don’t do audiobooks,but this sounds interesting! Maybe I’ll go ahead and read the book instead, thanks for the tip. 🙂


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