Just as in real life, there are no two dads exactly alike in literature. From the terrifying to the brave, the disinterested to the inspiring, father characters have been some of the most interesting in novels, short stories, plays, and children's books. Who could forget the father in The Road or the doomed machinations of King Lear? From Mr. Bennett to Arthur Weasley, there is no shortage of memorable dads to read.
To celebrate Father's Day, we asked some of our favourite writers to share the dad character who they found unforgettable. Whether your Father's Day is complicated, joyful, or something in between, we've got six great books, full of fascinating dads, here for you.
Read on to hear from David Demchuk, Naseem Hrab, Elan Mastai, Ele Pawelski, Michael Redhill, and Vikki VanSickle on their most memorable literary dads.
The Dad: Jack Torrance
The Book: The Shining by Stephen King
He is certainly not a model father, but Jack Torrance in Stephen King's third novel The Shining is one of modern horror's great characters. His struggle with alcoholism and his guilt over an incident of domestic violence are powerful and relatable, even when they are repellent, and are the weaknesses that the Overlook Hotel exploits as it seeks to take him over. His gradual possession by the Overlook is much more nuanced than is Jack Nicholson's portrayal in Stanley Kubrick's legendary film, and his eventual surrender to its dark forces is more tragic and terrifying as a result.
David Demchuk is the author of The Bone Mother (ChiZine Publications)
The Dad: Little Johnny's Dad
The Book: Applesauce by Klaas Verplancke
I'll always feel conflicted about my father for about thirty-six thousand reasons and, for the last ten years, I've affectionately referred to Father's Day as Dead Dad Day. Fittingly, my favourite picture book dad is the mercurial father in Applesauce by Klaas Verplancke (Groundwood Books). Little Johnny's dad sounds like a mom when he sings in the shower, has a belly that's soft as a pillow and fingers that taste like applesauce, but he also has ears that don't always hear Johnny, cold hands and fingers that flash like lightning. He's perfectly perfect and perfectly flawed all at the same time.
Naseem Hrab is the author of Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend (OwlKids)
The Dad: William
The Book: Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
William, Danny's dad in Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World, is kind of a terrible father. He raises his son in a dilapidated caravan behind a roadside gas station and happily embroils him in illegal activities, evading armed men and nearly getting them both killed. But he's also a fantastic father. They have very little, but he never stops giving his son plenty of the thing all kids crave the most: his undivided attention. Because of his dad, Danny's days are filled with wonder, creativity, and fun, and he learns through both word and act the difference between wealth and value, law and right, status and soul. Life is full of dark woods and, as a father, if you have one job it's not to cover your children's eyes to danger, it's to hold their hands and lead the way through it.
Elan Mastai is the author of All Our Wrong Todays (Doubleday Canada)
The Dad: Atticus Finch
The Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My suggestion is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. He's a single dad at a time when this would not have been much discussed or likely supported, but the book doesn't focus on this. His wise words to his small children are exemplary of patience and understanding; he also gives his kids the space to figure things out on their own. His moral compass (at least in this book) guides his life but also some of his work decisions. A super dad.
Ele Pawelski is the author of The Finest Supermarket in Kabul (Quattro Books)
The Dad: Kafka's Dad
The Book: "Letter to His Father" by Franza Kafka
I'd say one the most memorable fathers for me is Kafka's, who seems to run underneath everything Kafka wrote. And "Letter to His Father" is a remarkable piece of work, both a vindication of any child who wished they could have spoken their mind to an abusive parent, and an admonition to any reader who currently is a parent.
Michael Redhill is the author of Bellevue Square (Doubleday Canada)
The Dad: Matthew Cuthbert
The Book: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Matthew Cuthbert is the first person who recognizes that Anne Shirley is special and he treats her that way, sticking up for her even when faced with indomitable women like his sister Marilla and Rachel Lynde, and overcoming debilitating shyness and total ignorance of women's fashion to surprise her with the one luxury she wants most: a dress with puffed sleeves. His kindness, sensitivity and obvious affection for the skinny, red-haired orphan nobody wanted feels radical when considered in its historical context, and should be considered the gold standard when it comes to fathering. Forget Gilbert, Matthew is the true heart of the story!
Vikki VanSickle is the author of The Winnowing (Scholastic)