The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

It’s rare I find myself laughing out loud and crying in the same chapter of a book. It’s even more rare that I go to Amazon and order every book written by an author, before I’ve even finished reading his first. J.R. Moehringer is that kind of writer. Few authors have taken me more vividly into the dignity and depravity of the human experience, while leaving room for the process of coming to informed conclusions over time. This is life. And there is nothing like a great story of masculine initiation to access the ache and longing over the same themes in our own story. J.R. was raised in a bar, in the company of messy men. If seeds of desire to respond to God’s initiation are rooted deeply in our hearts, especially through the failures, the parables and personalities J.R. narrates can help us find our way toward true north.

Amazon Description: The New York Times bestseller and one of the 100 Most Notable Books of 2005. In the tradition of This Boy’s Life and The Liar’s Club, a raucous, poignant, luminously written memoir about a boy striving to become a man, and his romance with a bar.

J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his father, a New York City disc jockey who vanished before J.R. spoke his first word. Sitting on the stoop, pressing an ear to the radio, J.R. would strain to hear in that plummy baritone the secrets of masculinity and identity. Though J.R.’s mother was his world, his rock, he craved something more, something faintly and hauntingly audible only in The Voice.

At eight years old, suddenly unable to find The Voice on the radio, J.R. turned in desperation to the bar on the corner, where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. The alphas along the bar—including J.R.’s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawler—took J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fathering-by-committee. Torn between the stirring example of his mother and the lurid romance of the bar, J.R. tried to forge a self somewhere in the center. But when it was time for J.R. to leave home, the bar became an increasingly seductive sanctuary, a place to return and regroup during his picaresque journeys. Time and again the bar offered shelter from failure, rejection, heartbreak—and eventually from reality.

In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs, The Tender Bar is suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny. A classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it’s also a moving portrait of one boy’s struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.

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