Writing The Book On Fatherhood And Faith

He has traveled the world, but best-selling author and native Savannahian Bruce Feiler was determined not to take his most perilous journey alone

10,000 miles.

That's the distance of mountains, desert, and sea that Bruce Feiler traveled for his book Walking The Bible, in which he retraced the Five Books of Moses. The book was a critical and commercial success, spending more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Feiler's next two books, Abraham and Where God Was Born, not only cemented his reputation as an engaging author but also as a tireless, determined adventurer. Yet none of these treks could fully prepare Feiler for his most startling discovery-the cancer in his leg.

Suddenly Feiler faced the possibility of not seeing his twin daughters, Eden and Tybee, through the many joyous moments and great challenges of their lives. He prepared for treatment in New York City, where he, his wife Linda, and his two children live. But he also prepared a letter. In it, Feiler asked six men-men who had played irreplaceably important roles in his own life-to become "The Council of Dads."

"I reached out to six friends from all parts of my life - including my oldest friend from Savannah, Ben Edwards - and asked them to be present in the lives of our daughters," Feiler says. "I gave each man a role - Travel Dad, Values Dad, Rebellion Dad - and they gave me the most wonderful set of life lessons to pass on to my kids."

Feiler had learned some of those lessons himself growing up in Savannah, and he can see how his life here as a child influenced not only his writing but also his unique outlook on the world.

 "I think what I remember most fondly about Savannah was the sense of place - the distinct shape of the squares, the rhythm of the beach, the sense of stickiness we all felt," Feiler recalls. "Savannah was someplace. And more than that, it was someplace special."

Once he set out for the world beyond Savannah's city limits, Feiler found that each culture or place he was immersed in was worthy of its own story, seen through his eyes. He wrote books about being a teacher in Japan, a student in England, a member of a traveling circus, and a witness to the "changing face of Nashville" on a tour with Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd. It was during this time that Feiler dusted off his Bible.

"I thought that as a writer I should be more conversant with the Bible," Feiler says. "I hadn't read it since I was a kid in Savannah, which means I hadn't really read it."

Feiler visited a friend in Jerusalem, who pointed out the sites of some of the Bible's most well known passages. The realization that the places in those stories could still be visited and touched today gave Feiler an idea-to travel and see those places with his own two eyes as he read about them in the Bible.

"So I did," Feiler says. "I climbed Mount Ararat looking for Noah's ark, crossed the Red Sea, tasted manna, and wrote the book Walking the Bible, which later became a television show that I hosted, and then led to three more books, Where God Was Born, Abraham, and America's Prophet.

Feiler was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. It was only a few days after hearing the diagnosis that Feiler wrote the letter to the six men he hoped would become his Council of Dads. He spent a year battling with and recovering from cancer, asking questions of his Council and discovering deep truths about fatherhood, friendship, and faith.

He wants readers of The Council of Dads to learn what he learned as he wrote it: You're not alone.

"Since the book was published, I've heard from so many others who want something similar in their lives," Feiler says. He found that the idea resonated not only with cancer patients, but also with single parents, parents of troubled teens and even members of the military.

Feiler realized what a transformative force the finished book had become when a Dad from his Council shared a thought with him on Eden and Tybee's fifth birthday.

"He said, 'Seeing the looks on the girls' faces today, I now know we all need our own Council,'" Feiler recalls. "That has really been the most enduring impact of The Council of Dads. Linda and I did it for our girls. But it really changed all of us."

Learn more at BruceFeiler.com.

Photo of Bruce with his daughters courtesy of Andrew Feiler. Photo of Bruce and family on the beach courtesy of Kelly Hike.
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