Sunday, June 14, 2009
Summary: Robin Hemley's childhood made a wedgie of his memory, leaving him sore and embarrassed for over forty years. He was the most pitiful kindergartner, the least spirited summer camper, and dateless for prom. In fact, there's nary an event from his youth that couldn't use improvement. If only he could do them all over a few decades later, with an adult's wisdom, perspective, and giant-like height...
In the spirit of cult film classics like Billy Madison and Wet Hot American Summer, in DO-OVER! Hemley reencounters paper mache, revisits his childhood home, and finally attends the prom--bringing readers the thrill of recapturing a misspent youth and discovering what's most important: simple pleasures, second chances, and the forgotten joys of recess.
Review: Remember when Mrs. Brown passed out Valentines from the huge Valentine's Day box to all other 3rd graders except you? Or the time when you were to recite a poem from memory to the parents on Back to School night and forgot the words? What if you were to re-do these flubs in your formative years and get them right this time? This is exactly what Robin Hemley did in his new immersion memoir Do Over.
The 48 year old Hemley embarked on his Do Over adventures because "sometimes you need to reevaluate what you think you've left behind forever as a way to find out who you are now . . . ." In short, Hemley was hoping to gain a new way to view some of his past failures. He also wanted to better connect with his daughters from a previous marriage who were or would be navigating thru some of the same rites of passage that he was attempting to re do.
There are apparently rules in attempting Do Overs such as not going back to revisit a failed marriage. In the end, Hemley set out to Do Over: (1) Kindergarten; (2) the School Play The Littlest Angel; (3) Summer Camp; Sixth Grade; (5) Joining a Fraternity; (6) Eighth Grade; (7) The Prom; (8) Standardized Tests; (9) his Childhood Home and (10) being an Exchange Student in Japan. While the results of his abbreviated recreations were sometimes mixed, they were always highly entertaining. Often while reading about Hemley's adventures I was laughing out loud. For example, the following exchange cracked me up:
"Do you ride the bus?" Louis asks.
"Oh. Well, who's picking you up?" Halely asks.
"My wife" I say.
There's a long moment of silence as they take that in and blink at me like cats.
"Oh" say Stefan finally. "I thought you were going to say your dad."
Surprisingly, apart from a few naysayers, most everyone (kids and adults) is supportive of Hemley's quest. As Hemley puts it during his 6th grade escapade: "I know I'm not really a sixth grader, and my classmates know this too. But we forget sometimes, and its good to forget. Sometimes I'm an observer. Sometimes I'm a participant. Sometimes I'm an oddity. But most of the time, I seem to fit in somehow . . ."
Do Over is a highly entertaining and insightful, memoir. I recommend it for an enjoyable read. Meanwhile, I'm off to create my own list.