The Tender Bar

The Tender Bar Summary

Now a major Amazon film directed by George Clooney and starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, and Christopher Lloyd, a raucous, poignant, luminously written memoir about a boy striving to become a man, and his romance with a bar, in the tradition of This Boy’s Life and The Liar’s Club—with a new Afterword.

J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his father, a New York City disc jockey who vanished before J.R. spoke his first word. Sitting on the stoop, pressing an ear to the radio, J.R. would strain to hear in that plummy baritone the secrets of masculinity and identity. Though J.R.'s mother was his world, his rock, he craved something more, something faintly and hauntingly audible only in The Voice.

At eight years old, suddenly unable to find The Voice on the radio, J.R. turned in desperation to the bar on the corner, where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. The alphas along the bar—including J.R.'s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawler—took J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fathering-by-committee. Torn between the stirring example of his mother and the lurid romance of the bar, J.R. tried to forge a self somewhere in the center. But when it was time for J.R. to leave home, the bar became an increasingly seductive sanctuary, a place to return and regroup during his picaresque journeys. Time and again the bar offered shelter from failure, rejection, heartbreak—and eventually from reality.

In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs, The Tender Baris suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny. A classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it's also a moving portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.

Named a best book of the year by The New York Times, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, NPR's "Fresh Air," and New York Magazine
New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Booksense, and Library Journal Bestseller
Booksense Pick
Borders New Voices Finalist
Winner of the Books for a Better Life First Book Award

Book Reviews


Amazing5 star

A roller coaster of emotions. A person I can relate with and hopefully change my outlook on “growing up”. The start of adulthood. Thank you JR.55

Lady Sparhawk

A panegyric to bars.3 star

A panegyric to bars. “Do you mind if I say panegyric?”It has many great qualities but in the end, well up until the very end, in fact, past the end, until near the end of the epilogue, it is a long depressing tale cleverly told in the voice of a defeatist. Well written. I’ll give it that.35

non-fiction reader

Tender words5 star

To JR: As I read your memoir, flashbacks of pieces of my life emerged. Your story trapped me in memories of my past. Your Yale is my Northwestern. As a writer of ads, I have learned to appreciate the writing skills of others. I can think of no one who I’ve enjoyed reading more than you. I am older than you, and I have written an unpublished novel just to satisfy an age long desire of mine. I’m working on a second. Just for me. Interestingly, I live in the same town where Jonathan Franzen went to high school, well within radio range of your cousin McGraw. Don’t ever stop writing. I need your words and writing style to encourage me.55

Vescovo Emerito

An absolutely enchanting masterpiece5 star

The Tender Bar is a beautiful, well crafted and enormously affecting story with charming characters and spell-binding adventures. I have read it several times over the years and it continues to draw me in every time.55


The Tender Bar5 star

I decided to read this book since my 13 year old son is reading for school. So glad "we" picked this wonderful memoir. He and I both enjoyed. There are many references that a younger person won't totally understand but it is a GOOD READ for all ages--although better for the over 40 age. Don't pass this one up.55

Other Books by J. R. Moehringer



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