Lionel Dahmer,
A Father's Story
(Avon, 1995)

Lionel Dahmer's memoir is the story of the dark journey of a father who was faced with the grisly reality of one of America's most notorious serial murder, mutilation, rape, necrophilia and cannibalism cases. Lionel was a father who had to grapple not with losing his son to these unspeakable horrors, but with the fact that his son was the perpetrator. As a father, Lionel was asked if he could forgive his son, but before he could determine that, he had to forgive himself. This book presents Lionel's struggle with guilt, bewilderment, anger and personal chaos during his son's life and in the aftermath of his arrest.

The memoir stands alone in its straightforward prose, introspection and complete lack of blame shifting. Lionel provides broads stroke of details of the crimes, focusing more on the individuals than on the headline-grabbing depravity of Jeffrey Dahmer's deviance. Throughout Jeffrey's youth, and during the trial, Lionel grappled with his own responsibility for his son's social maladjustment. He identified with his son's need for control, extreme fear of abandonment and general solitary nature. Lionel even contrasts Jeffrey's zombie experiments with his own hypnosis-control experiments in childhood. After Jeffrey's arrest, Lionel never wanted him to go free, but he did hope and work for psychiatric treatment for the son he was never able to save.

Lionel, I applaud your candor and introspection. You've written a book that will no doubt provide comfort to many parents of difficult children, and will help frame many of the "why?" questions felt by Americans with regards to your son's crimes.

review by
Jessica Lux-Baumann

15 September 2007

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