The Tender Bar is a memoir about growing up with a single mother, and an absent father, who was known only by his voice on the radio. The kid lived, most of the time, in a disjointed household comprised of a crazy grandfather and an assortment of aunts, uncles and cousins. The bar where his uncle worked, became his community, his male mentors, and the home of his heart.
I read this book after seeing a review on goodreads. Alcoholism had emerged in our Literary Party's Sea Stories discussion last March. I wondered aloud how many people, especially men, had become alcoholics because they were seeking and found community in a bar. Someone countered with a comment that there were many closet drinkers, which is, of course, true.
When alcoholism became our Lit Party them for April; The Tender Bar seemed like the perfect choice. I walked into Cathy’s a few minutes late, and found everyone drinking bourbon on ice, or scotch on the rocks. O the slippery slopes! Turned out it was ice tea served in small globe glasses.
Author J.R. Moehringer’s description of the characters and friendships in the bar, seen from a child’s point of view, is warm, riveting, and highly humorous. The sense of community, respect and love resonate beneath the zany antics, outrageous behavior and appalling realities of lives diminished by drink.
Like Frank McCourt’s books, the trajectory of the story sags as the child becomes an adult falling into his own, obviously expected, alcoholism. Without the child’s viewpoint, you become impatient with the adult’s consistently horrible choices. However the writing remains solid, the plot engaging enough, and for me The Tender Bar was good to the last drop.