Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt KidThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was born in 1950, so I'm the perfect demographic for this memoir. Bill Bryson has written about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa during the fifties. I can't speak for younger readers, but as one of the people who lived through that time I found the book hysterical.

He talks about comic books, chemistry sets, and crushes on young girls. His early years could have been any of ours, only documented better and much funnier. I loved his descriptions of people pitching brands on old TV shows, like Harry Von Zell on The George Burns and Gracie Allen show. But what I loved the most about the book was the way he captured that innocent, self-centered way of living that I certainly enjoyed as a boy.

I read this book because it was my book club's selection for March. After I finished it, I wasn't convinced that it would lead to much of a discussion. But I was so wrong. Everyone in the group was caught up in the nostalgia and joined in the conversation about the way things were when they were young. It turned out to be one of the best discussions we've had. Everyone had something in the book to identify with. When I read about Bryson's father picking a dentist who didn't use Novocain simply because he charged less, I recognized my own father in the story.

Some of Bryson's lists of things from the fifties went on too long, but that was my only complaint. What excited me about the book was the way I could identify with Bryson and relive my childhood through him. If you like memoirs, this would be a good one to try.

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