In Breaking Away, Patrick O’Sullivan chronicles the years of physical and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. The memoir also explains how O’Sullivan survived the abuse, his life in the NHL and retiring from hockey when he did. The book can be very graphic at points. When reading , one has to wonder how O’Sullivan could have survived.
The physical and emotional abuse O’Sullivan suffered was extensive. The physical abuse included getting punched, kicked and being forced to workout from a young age. The emotional abuse included name-calling and locking him outside all night in the cold with only pajamas on.
O’Sullivan opens his book writing about the day he decided to fight back from his father’s abuse. He writes about when his father yelled at him and O’Sullivan decided to yell back which turned into a beating where he was kicked and punched by his father. However, this time, when his father would throw a punch, O’Sullivan threw one back. This was something that he had never done before but after years of abuse, O’Sullivan mentioned that he just couldn’t take the abuse anymore. When O’Sullivan describes the beating however the reader knows that this story is going to be one you can’t put down, even though it was gruesome at some parts. O’Sullivan leaves readers with the images of that night in their mind and changes gears to talk about his father.
John O’Sullivan, Patrick’s dad, was desperate to become a hockey player and when he failed to do that, John turned his desperation for success onto Patrick.
The book progresses in chronological order, going back to his father’s childhood, his father’s desperation to get into the NHL and O’Sullivan’s years in hockey. Then at the beginning of Chapter 22, O’Sullivan goes back to the night that progressed the story even farther, to the night that he teased at the beginning of the book, to the night that he saved his own life.
O’Sullivan defined his father for the first night in his life by confronting him out front of his grandparents lawn, which resulted in more physical abuse, including kicks to the ribs and countless punches to the face. O’Sullivan suffered cuts and bruises. The feeling of relief washes over the reader when O’Sullivan decides to do something even he admits he should have done a long time ago, he called the cops.
“While he was justifying every last punch, I was on the phone to the police. I can’t remember calling 911. I might have. My mother might have. My grandparents might have. I was exhausted and my mind was foggy. Everything was a blur,” O’Sullivan wrote.
The better part of the book covers the abuse that O’Sullivan suffered and how he handled it. Yet it also talks about how his hard work and determination paid off. As readers know he got drafted into the NHL and playing in the NHL before he retired. Besides the abuse, O’Sullivan’s book covers life as an NHL hockey player, being in a long-distance relationship with his now-wife and being a father.
O’Sullivan also talked about how he felt if his kids played sports. Under a photo of him and his son he wrote, “Putting my son Henry’s hands on a fold club for the first time. If they choose to play sports, I am hoping it’s something other than hockey.”
O’Sullivan suffered more than any child should, handling the years of abuse. But throughout the book the readers are taken on an emotional journey of strength and willingness to go on despite everything trying to tear you down. Breaking Away is a must read, not only for hockey fans but for anyone that is going through a hard time and needs some inspiration to fight back from whatever is bringing you down.