This is a true story of intense love matched by intense hatred and fear, of growing up Irish Catholic in a family of eight children in the era of the Kennedys, where families of this magnitude were looked upon as a grand achievement, a joyous celebration of fertility, fellowship and life. It was also an era where fathers maintained order with the slash of the belt or a kick in the teeth.
Journey back in time with the ten O’Herns as they make their frightening and darkly hilarious annual “hell on wheels” holiday trek from Albany, New York to Falmouth, Mass on Cape Cod. From his father driving down the Mass Pike insanely swinging a belt over the front seat at the bored and restless brood huddled in the back of the blue Ford Town and Country station wagon—the family German Shepherd whimpering at their feet, Lawrence Welk droning from the AM radio—to the birth of the author’s own family where he is given the chance to re-learn the most profound lessons of life: sharing, kindness, compassion and honesty. It’s a journey of discovery; of learning you don’t have to be who you were taught to be.
John's wonderful ability as writer and storyteller made reading this book an experience that brought me a mixture of both smiles and tears. The collection of stories presented here, as told through his sessions with his psychiatrist, that skillfully interweaves John's struggles as both a son growing up in a big family and as an adult facing the challenges of being a husband and father, are written in a very colorful and sensitive way. This is a highly recommended read for all who have experienced or known someone who has experienced the trials of growing up not only in a very large family, but under the thumb of a strict father.
Couldn’t put it down. A disturbing, yet often lighthearted memoir of growing up with a father who was angry and violent, beyond belief. It is hard to comprehend for those of us who grew up in such a different environment. I can only imagine what life was like for John, his brothers and sisters, and his mom. Family life in the O’Hern household was often unbearably sad and frightening, but also heartwarming. A reminder that we should be kind to everyone, because you never know what battles they are fighting.
In this gripping memoir, John O’Hern recounts, through a series of visits to his psychiatrist, two contrasting tales. This is not just a fascinating memoir; it's a wonderful story about being a child and being a parent and how deeply intertwined the two experiences are.
“John not only has a magical ability to make people laugh but is also a skilled and generous teacher. In just a short session he taught me how to distill bland public speaking into a punchy tale that would grab an audience by the lapels and dare them to look away. I am so grateful.”
-Wendy Kann, author Casting with a Fragile Thread:
A Story of Sisters and Africa
"John is the consummate storyteller, who can make people laugh and cry almost in the same breath. I have benefited from his insightful coaching, as well as appeared on the same stage. As a performer, what I can tell you is this: Heed his advice, but do not follow his performance!"
“As cliché as it sounds, taking this course was on my bucket list and changed my life. John is a master at teaching a fledgling storyteller how to take a choppy story with very little structure and give it a backbone. In five sessions my story went from blah to on stage in front of an audience. He not only has sharp wit and a great sense of humour, but he also knows how to build and deliver a memorable story.”
"Many of John's stories performed at Write Yourself Free Storytelling series were funny-scary-true tales of growing up in a huge family. Listening to John's wonderful coming-of-age stories---sometimes bawdy, often tragic, but always hilarious---it was clear that his wit and charm were survival skills, and that despite a bizarre, sometimes terrifying upbringing, finding the humor was how John created his own personal power and how he---and we---could humanize and understand life's difficulties." -Patrick McCord, PhD, The Editing Company, Write Yourself Free
"With an outreach of more than 2000 writers, Write Yourself Free member John O'Hern, a heartbreaking writer and storyteller, starred in our Moth-like monthly storytelling events. His work is among the most moving….he knows how to find the funny in the pain."
-Tish Fried, Director Write Yourself Free
"I remember first meeting John at a storytelling event and finding him so instantly likable. His take on human behavior - mostly his own - is hilarious and scathing, but also touching, often moving. He tells great stories no matter who he's with. When he speaks to an audience it's like he's talking to a room full of his closest friends."
-Betsy Bowen, WYF Storyteller
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"John was fabulous! His presentation was as informative as it was entertaining. What was particularly telling, is that our group, accustomed to making short presentations about their respective businesses, did an especially effective job that evening. Many took his suggestions to heart, and it was fun to see how many of the "same" presentations now seemed fresh, interesting and powerful."
-Alex Vivro, Stamford Innovation Center
"Engaging and humorous! Thoughtful and practical tips on shaking up your networking confidence and crafting a pitch people want to hear. John's approach to coaching is the entrepreneur's secret weapon!
-Christina Kane, Director of Culture The Grove New Haven"II'm a
Fairfield, CT resident John O'Hern is an actor, author, and master storyteller. During a decade in New York City as an actor including off-Broadway roles, television commercials and print ads, John married his corporately employed wife and soon became the stay-at-home father of Max, their first born.
Almost simultaneously John the writer was born. His initial foray into writing was A Rooster in the Henhouse, an acerbic tongue-in-cheek memoir based on his wife's pregnancy experience seen through a man's eyes. It was this attempt at memoir that evolved into his highly praised one-man off-Broadway show of the same name.
John's next writing project was his two person/twelve character play, Sweetspot Confessions of a Golfaholic, which was performed before packed houses in Connecticut. Sweetspot, the novel, is the off-spring of that play.
Not The Kennedys, John's memoir about growing up in the chaos of an Irish-Catholic household with eight children, in contrast to his personal parenting experiences with two children of his own, is now available at Amazon.
John has most recently put his voice talents to good use and turned his novel Sweetspot: Confessions of a Golfaholic, into an audio book.
"...throughout it's the voice of John O'Hern that keeps the play humming - he's a sterling craftsman and a very likeable actor. A Rooster in the Henhouse proves an enjoyable and sharp surprise."
-Donald Lyons, New York Post
"This comedy of recognition serves best as a showcase for the appealing versatility of Mr. O'Hern who plays among other characters, a little girl, his wife, an eccentric Irish Barfly full of sexual advice, a birthing coach, women in labor, a cool obstetrician, an Indian anesthesiologist, a Jamaican nurse, squeamish fathers-to-be and an infant in the process of being born."
- Lawrence VanGelder, New York Times