Bedtime Stories for the Living

A Father's Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Storytelling

Non-Fiction - Parenting
290 Pages
Reviewed on 03/24/2022
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Author Biography

In 2013, Jay Armstrong was diagnosed with diffuse cerebellar atrophy. A condition that causes dysfunctional motor skills, speech and vision impairments, and balance deficiencies. At the time of diagnosis, he was establishing himself as an endeared high school English teacher, a varsity soccer coach, and an above average dancer. However, the progressive disorder forced Jay to reevaluate his life.

Supported by his high school sweetheart turned wife (Cindy) and their three children (Haley, Chase, Dylan), Jay retired from teaching in 2021 to pursue his dream of becoming an author.

Jay believes in the power of storytelling. He also believes in dad jokes, laughter, and the unrelenting pursuit of dreams. Jay’s debut book, Bedtime Stories for the Living, is an episodic memoir in which Jay shows his children how to accept their limitations and find joy. The collection of tender, witty stories about fatherhood, persevering despite illness, and pursuing your dreams, demonstrates how love gives us the strength to face heartache with bravery, humor, and grace.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jay is passionate about Philly sports, soft pretzels, and Rocky Balboa.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Emma Megan for Readers' Favorite

Jay Armstrong, a high school English teacher, explains in Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father's Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams how he was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease. This striking memoir contains wonderful love letters for each of Jay's children, beautiful true stories, and precious life lessons and advice. It also contains what Jay never told his kids, what he felt like saying to them but failed as life got in the way. In Bedtime Stories for the Living, Jay talks about poetry and books, the importance of writing and its impact on his life, offering aspiring writers valuable writing tips. He also talks about the beauty and the challenges of life, of being a parent, and the difficulty of dealing with a rare disease.

You cannot read this breathtaking memoir and still be ungrateful for your health. Bedtime Stories for the Living by Jay Armstrong is the best motivational book I've ever read. Jay's writing style is addictive, mainly because it's nostalgic, vulnerable, and filled with wisdom and sorrow. In his uniqueness, Jay inspires and encourages not only his children but all his readers to figure out their dreams and to chase the one that brings them joy, to read poetry, and never to ignore their internal voice. He reminds them that they are responsible for how they adapt to change. Bedtime Stories for the Living is truly an empowering book as it speaks to the heart and the mind and delivers inspirational life lessons and unique stories. It's undoubtedly a must-read.

Asher Syed

Bedtime Stories for the Living by Jay Armstrong is a non-fiction compilation written in vignettes of “A Father's Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams”. Armstrong begins with an introduction that shows us what inspired the book. Facing two diagnoses, one of a brain disease and the other autoimmune, Armstrong began to make changes from writing bedtime stories over the course of five years for the general public to writing bedtime stories of real life for his children and, hopefully, his children's children, and onward. Interspersed between original stories are six letters he has written for his kids, which to me are the most touching part of the book.

As a father I am able to empathize to a certain degree with what Jay Armstrong hopes to achieve through his sharing of Bedtime Stories for the Living. From a personal point of view, my parents were part of the largest cross-migration in human history, one where millions died. My mother has since passed and my father does not want to speak of it, which means this massive part of our family history is lost. And that's an incredible shame. Still, Armstrong has shown me that there are stories to tell, nonetheless. I loved the story Signs, about a trip to Target in which Armstrong points out all the ways the universe gives us signs. It is both hilarious and touching and, like all the other stories, is something future generations of Armstrongs will adore.

Jamie Michele

Jay Armstrong is determined to make up for all the bedtime stories he missed with his children and knock them out like a 1996 MLB Homerun Derby baseball in Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father's Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams. The entirety of his work for this book totals a mind-blowing forty-eight tales, all true to the best of his memory, and as a testament to the writer's highly prolific contributions to the literary world. Armstrong's work ranges in length and tone from the short and funny why-why-why story called Dad, Why is it Raining, to the slightly longer and beautiful story along those same lines called Bowling with God.

Bedtime Stories for the Living has the capacity to make a reader swing from laughter to contemplation, on to watery eyes, and back to laughter in the span of half-a-dozen pages. The watery eyes I mention were strong as I read Celebrating Victory with the Dead, a story where Armstrong admits he is an Eagles fan. That one really hit me in the feels. Seriously though, Jay Armstrong plucks at the heartstrings by including letters to his kids, and these truly are on the difficult side to read. There is one, in particular, a letter to his daughter Haley, in which he describes a slice of life when he is reading an essay she's written. He begins to cry, and then he does not say all the things he should have. So he does this in the letter and it is perfection. The letters all end with the same three lines: “Good night. I love you. See you in the morning.” I hope those mornings carry on with Armstrong and his kids for a long time.