On November 28, 1979, squadron commander and Navy pilot Peter Rodrick died when his plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, leaving behind a family that included his thirteen-year-old son, Stephen. In The Magical Stranger, Stephen Rodrick explores the life and death of the man who indelibly shaped his life, even as he remained a mystery: brilliant but unknowable, sacred but absent, a born leader who gave his son little direction.
To better understand his father and his own experience growing up without him, Rodrick spends nearly two years with his father's former squadron. His travels take him around the world, from Okinawa and Hawaii to Bahrain and the Persian Gulf. As he learns more about his father, he also uncovers the layers of these sailors' lives: their brides and girlfriends, friendships, dreams, and disappointments. The journey doesn't end until November 28, 2013, when Rodrick's first son is born 34 years to the day after his father's mishap.
A penetrating, thoughtful blend of memoir and reportage, The Magical Stranger is a moving reflection on the meaning of service and the power of a father's legacy.