Dancing with Daddy by Barbara Ann Gareis

four stars

She glided across the living room floor at two years old, dancing on her daddy’s feet to the tune of Al Martino’s “Daddy’s Little Girl,” and less than two decades later she swayed to the same song with him on her wedding day. But between these two points in time, a lot happened, and Barbara Ann (Clugsten) Gareis went from standing on her daddy’s feet, to stepping on his toes, and, finally, standing on her own. Dancing with Daddy chronicles Barbara Ann’s life as a daughter, woman, and child of Christ, recounting all the pits and peaks she encountered growing up and cleverly conveying the lessons she learned along the way. A vibrant and compelling piece of creative nonfiction, it follows her from childhood to early adulthood, concluding just after her father’s untimely death, and details the detours she took on her journey from innocence to maturity, including her troublesome trials and tribulations with alcohol, drugs, and men. Many of the things Barbara Ann did during her teen years offended her father’s sensibilities as both a parent and a seasoned law enforcement professional, but, nonetheless, despite her dalliances with danger and disappointment, his love for her—and faith in her—remained steady and did not yield. Only after she made it through her rough patch was Barbara Ann able to fully appreciate what an amazing ally her father had been…but just as she came to realize these things and her new, enlightened life began, her father’s life came to an abrupt end.

Dancing with Daddy by Barbara Ann Gareis is a deeply personal, probing memoir that’s very realistic, easy to relate to, and full of hope. It reminds us that life is short and full of surprises and that we all make mistakes, but can find redemption, forgiveness, and possibility when we work to turn our paths right again. As much a tribute to a father’s love as a testament of a daughter’s strength, Dancing with Daddy is sure to touch your heart and open your eyes to the treasured relationships you have in your own life, with your family, your friends and yourself.

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