Leaving aside the vexed and the melancholy (temporarily!), I’d like to move on to your bonus round. “Braving It,” James Campbell’s account of the three trips he took with his daughter, Aidan, to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska beginning when she was 15 years old, fits your search parameters. In Campbell’s moving memoir, which doubles as a kind of extreme parenting guide, crisply detailed scenes are stacked with rural perils and pleasures, from treacherous canoeing, solitary fly-fishing and cabin building to grizzly bear threats and emotional nuance between a very loving parent and child. Spoiler alert: Aidan doesn’t take to the wilderness immediately. She brings her Kindle.
Jennifer Egan’s “Manhattan Beach” could be another candidate for your dad’s Christmas gift. The delicately plotted, cinematic, noirish novel, set mostly in World War II-era New York, takes its epigraph from “Moby-Dick.” And the sea — “a glittering curtain drawn across a mystery” — floods the story of Anna Kerrigan, whose life is shaped by her job as a diver in the Brooklyn Naval Yards and by the disappearance of her beloved father.
A slew of guns, teenage romance, a violent father and his motherless daughter: Hannah Tinti’s suspenseful but big-hearted crime story, “The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley,” shares a raft of key surface points with “My Absolute Darling.” However, unlike the pair in Gabriel Tallent’s novel, the bond the teenager Loo shares with her fugitive father, Hawley, is tender, not twisted.
Patricia Lockwood is a poet, and it shows in her antic, earthy, bawdy family memoir, “Priestdaddy,” which brims with warmth and electric language, much of it lavished on descriptions of her larger-than-life father. Once a “smirking teenage atheist, whose only religion was rock and roll, tight jeans and making rude comments to authority figures,” Greg Lockwood eventually became a gun-owning, electric guitar-riffing, married Catholic priest.
Family secrets and tragedy also underpin the plot of Mira Jacob’s layered, richly populated, comic, mournful and sometimes sexy debut novel, “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.” When her father, a neurosurgeon, begins seeing dead relatives in his backyard garden, Amina — a photographer living in Seattle who is also haunted, not by a ghost but an image — comes home to New Mexico to unravel the painful story behind her…