The Magical Stranger is a moving story of love and sacrifice, fathers and sons, heroism and duty, soldiers and the families they leave behind.
On November 28, 1979, squadron commander and Navy pilot Peter Rodrick died when his plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, leaving behind a devastated wife, two daughters, and a 13-year-old son.
In this powerful, beautifully written book, journalist Stephen Rodrick explores the life and death of the man who indelibly shaped his life, even as he remained a mystery. Through adolescence and into adulthood, Stephen Rodrick struggled to fully grasp the reality of his father’s death and its permanence.
To better understand his father, Rodrick turned to members of his father’s former squadron, the "World-Famous Black Ravens." As he learns about his father, he uncovers the layers of these sailors’ lives: their loves, friendships, dreams, disappointments—and the consequences of their choices on those they leave behind. 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 military service and the power of a father’s legacy.
Rodrick was 13 when his father's EA-6B airplane crashed into the Indian Ocean. Though the crash was never officially explained by the Navy, Rodrick felt that his father, an accomplished pilot, was ultimately responsible. Driven to understand the man he knew all too briefly, Roderick embarked on a quest to better connect his father and his life in the Navy by spending a year and a half with members of his father's former squadron aboard the USS Nimitz and ultimately going up in the same model his father flew. The result is an engaging and immersive look at the dynamics of military units and the dual lives servicemen and women lead, from the on-again off-again relationships military families lead between deployments to the intricacies, pranks, and mores of life on a ship, all viewed through a crisp journalistic lens that helps Rodrick separate myth from reality, including the stories told about his father's death.