Post #96 – Women’s Memoirs, Book & Video Raves – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
The Shyster’s Daughter by Paula Priamos
Reviewed by Tracy Kauffman-Wood, Women’s Memoirs Reviewer
Paula Priamos loved her dad. Too bad many other people didn’t.
Paul Priamos, Paula’s dad, rarely hid his affection for her. Too bad he hid most everything else he did.
Paula Priamos is The Shyster’s Daughter, having grown up the daughter of a defense attorney who, it turns out, was just as much a crook as most of his clients. If nothing else she learns he was guilty of distorting the truth to suit his own ends, and embezzling funds in the process.
But the two of them had a loyal and enduring relationship. His strong mind, generous spirit and slippery morals provided her with a unique prospective and a mystery to untangle upon his death.
It is healthy for a girl to grow up respecting and loving her dad. Paula did, and the reader understands why, as she hones her story about growing up in a close and colorful Greek-American family. But Priamos structures within her memoir, a unique and telling refrain. There are six sections interspersed throughout the book with direct quotes from other people in her father’s life. She calls these pages, “What They Told Me After He Died. ” Here, the man who looms so large and full of unanswerable questions for Paula is fleshed out through his other relationships.
“Your father’s life was destroyed years ago the day he got together with that half-breed. It just sickens me. All my sons chose to marry the wrong women.” — Yia Yia (Paul’s mother) Page 109
“There will be no obituary. It’s bad enough word might leak out before he’s in the ground.” — Uncle Dimitri. (Paul’s brother) Page 55
What is most compelling and enjoyable about this technique is that we know these people from the story, we want to hear their take on what happened to this guy, and we also realize that the quotes Paula chooses to include are the ones that suit her own suspicions about her father. She just allows someone else to say it for her.
“I could’ve gone to dead. Your father, he saved me. May God rest his soul.” — Bared Garratta, former client. Page 56
“How do you think I feel? My husband’s gone and none of you will even let me come out there to show my respects. Nobody will let me bury him once and for all.” — June Priamos, ex-wife. (Paula’s mother) Page 56
“Beth Anne’s husband had it out for your father like nobody’s business. He’d call the office, drop by, sometimes even warn clients before they walked in. Harassment is what it was. The s.o.b. did everything but hand your father a bottle of pills and a glass of water.” — Nora, legal assistant Page 10
“He always told me he loved me. Right before we’d hang up, he always said it.” — Rhea Priamos, Paul’s other daughter. (Paula’s sister) Page 109
This feels to me like a courtroom technique the shyster’s daughter might have learned from her father! And it works for a writer too— especially the writer of a memoir/detective noir —or really any writer of memoir seeking to give evidence and local color, which ‘shows rather than tells’ her story.
Relationships are complicated. Family ties— the most tangled and yet most compelling to resolve. Paula Priamos is her father’s daughter. In her memoir, The Shyster’s Daughter, she has plied the best attributes of his trade to reveal the mysterious and intriguing personality that was her dad.
If you prefer to read the Kindle version instead of the print copy, just click on the image on the left.