Summary and book reviews of Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse

Take This Man

A Memoir

by Brando Skyhorse

Take This Man
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy's turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy's turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.

When he was three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa was abandoned by his Mexican father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live his life as a Mexican just because he started out as one. The life of "Brando Skyhorse," the American Indian son of an incarcerated political activist, was about to begin.

Through a series of letters to Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a stranger in prison for armed robbery, Maria reinvents herself and her young son as American Indians in the colorful Mexican-American neighborhood of Echo Park, California. There Brando and his mother live with his acerbic grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be over thirty years before Brando begins to untangle the truth of his own past, when a surprise discovery online leads him to his biological father at last.

From an acclaimed, prize-winning novelist celebrated for his "indelible storytelling" (O, The Oprah Magazine), this extraordinary literary memoir captures a son's single-minded search for a father wherever he can find one, and is destined to become a classic.

Take This Man
Introduction

I was three years old when my father abandoned me and my mother in my grandmother's house atop a crooked hill on Portia Street in a Los Angeles neighborhood called Echo Park. My mother, Maria Teresa, a Mexican who wanted to be an American Indian, transformed me into Brando Skyhorse, a full-blooded American Indian brave. I became the son of Paul Skyhorse Johnson, an American Indian activist incarcerated for armed robbery who my mother met through the mail. She became Running Deer Skyhorse, a full-blooded "squaw" who traded in her most common of Mexican names for the most stereotypical of Indian ones.

My mother was mesmerizing and could make crazy schemes and lies sound electric and honest. Her deception was so good, or so obvious, she fooled each of her five husbands, our neighbors, her friends, my elementary school vice principal, even me. I lived most of my childhood without knowing who I really was. All I knew was the power in my own name: "Brando ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

You might think a story like this — of lies, drugs and alcohol, and child abuse — would be impossibly dark. However, the remarkable thing about Skyhorse's memoir is his matter-of-fact, often humorous style. Although he is honest about the sometimes suicidal depression his childhood caused, he never comes across as self-pitying.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review Members Only (873 words).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly

Skyhorse's memoir is a West Coast version of Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors . . . [A] funny, shocking, generous-hearted book.

The Los Angeles Review of Books

Take This Man is earnest and searching, genuinely interested in exploring the complex arrangement that we call family.... [with] exquisite prose, but also a mature acknowledgment of the complex nature of memory, longing, love, and disappointment.

Library Journal

There is not much in this hard-luck story to grab on to or connect with, except that it is a wonder that Skyhorse survived. What did come of his life within this dysfunctional family is a love and appreciation for storytelling; though, like his mother, his fiction seems to have more appeal.

Booklist

A harrowing, compulsively readable story of one man’s remarkable search for identity.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. By turns darkly comical and moving, this powerful memoir of a family in flux will stick with readers well after they've put it down.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. By turns funny and wrenching, the narrative is an unforgettable tour de force of memory, love and imagination.

Author Blurb Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
Take This Man is as astonishing a memoir as I've ever read. Brando Skyhorse's beautifully-told tale of his truly bizarre childhood and his search for a father moved me in a way that few books have... I guarantee that this is a family story unlike any you've read before. It deserves to become a classic.

Author Blurb Geoffrey Wolff, author of The Duke of Deception
Take This Man reaches beyond the bounds of my imagination. We use the word 'survivor' with disgracefully casual ease. But this writer truly survived being held hostage, raised by wolves... when he escaped he knew how to tell a story, and this is one hell of story.

Author Blurb Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway and You Think That's Bad
Take This Man is a funny and harrowing and touching portrait of the abyss in families between what we know we should do and how our hearts lead us to behave.

Author Blurb Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire
Brando Skyhorse's unputdownable Take This Man is one of the most moving and mesmerizing memoirs I've ever read. I'm still reeling... This is a miraculous memoir from a spectacularly talented writer.

Author Blurb Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Still Writing
This gorgeous, wrenching, ultimately uplifting book is a testament to the large and generous heart of its author. Brando Skyhorse has made art out of the chaos of his own extraordinary family history, and, in so doing, has raised the bar, not only for memoirists, but for us all.

Author Blurb Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle
A beautiful, compassionate, but also hilarious and hair-raising tale of one boy's life, the lies and truths his mother told, and the damage and the magic she created. Brando Skyhorse is an irresistible writer with an incredible story.

Author Blurb Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men
Take This Man is a grand story full of fantastic characters - characters whom the author brings vividly to life because they ARE his life. Skyhorses's shifting identity creates an intense quest for meaning, a kind of whodunit memoir that explores the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, often absurd, and always fascinating childhood that the author.

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Beyond the Book

Brando Skyhorse's Unusual Name

Brando Skyhorse, author of the memoir Take This Man, has been known by many names. A mistake in his first name meant that his birth certificate read "Brandon Ulloa" (the last name was his real father's) — but his mother, Maria, had it officially changed three months later to "Brando," as she had always intended. Later he was known as Brando Skyhorse Johnson, and now, after an official name change, his name stands as Brando Skyhorse.

Echo Park, CA Maria "Running Deer" Skyhorse gave her son his name in honor of Marlon Brando, who refused his 1973 Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather because of Hollywood's poor treatment of Native Americans. He believed the film industry only depicted stereotypes of savages, and also relegated Native American ...

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  • The Glass Castle jacket

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    A tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave the author the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

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