DO-OVER! by Robin Hemley
Scheduled Release Date: May 2009
Non-Fiction (Memoir), 336 pages
Little, Brown and Company
Advanced Reader’s Copy provided by:
Hachette Book Group, Inc.
When I read the synopsis of this book, I was interested as the author and I are about the same age, and I too wonder what would happen if I re-visited certain incidents in my youth – literally. Would the results be any different? Especially since I would looking through the spectacles of hindsight and maturity?
As he states in his introduction:
I know you can’t change the past, but you can change the way you think about the past. Sometimes you need to reevaluate what you think you’ve left behind forever as a way to find out who you are now, to put into perspective those rites of passage we all must survive and which more often than not linger in our minds as disasters.
Robin Hemley’s memoir is one of a man who is looking back on his own life as he looks to the future of his children’s.
My do-overs really have as much to do with what kind of parent I am and want to be as with how the past shaped me. My daughters are heading toward all those hurdles I’ve jumped (or not). How can I understand what they’re going through if I can’t understand what I went through?
This is not simply the musings of a man enmeshed in a mid-life crisis, although it would be easy to label it as such. He makes a list of those items in the past that he feels needs a “do-over” or more appropriately, a “re-experience”. In doing so, he hopes to find a new meaning in order for him to feel better, perhaps even more confident, when having to parent his children through having to jump some of those same hurdles.
A lofty goal, but as we all know, times change and each individual, no matter how closely tied to us genetically will face those issues and deal with them as best they can and in their own way. All we can do as parents is to be there to advise, support, and hug them through the tears that will inevitably fall if, or when, it doesn’t turn out the way they hoped.
In addition, 30 years is a long time to wait to revisit past injustices. However, Hemley does show us, many times through irreverent humor, that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks – or at least come to terms with those than he never quite got a handle on.
For a memoir, this was a fun read. It wasn’t an “edge-of-your-seat” type of book, but one I would recommend. In fact, I liked this enough that I will be looking into get a few of his others books including two of his short story collections.
I am especially interested in Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness, which is about his older sister who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I read Angelhead: My Brother’s Descent into Madness by Greg Bottoms in school and found it to be a heart wrenching, but fascinating book. After reading DO-OVER!, I have a feeling Hemley will provide a story just as touching – if not more.
As per my criteria, I am giving this book 3 Stars, but don’t let that sway you toward the negative. I usually only give 4 or 5 stars because a book keeps me from performing a few basic necessities such as sleeping and eating. Sorry Robin. But if it means anything, I was laughing with you, never at you. Well, maybe once. Because of you, I will forever remember never to say chin chin to anyone in Japan. Ever.
Robin Hemley has published seven books which include Invented Eden, The Big Ear, The Last Studebaker, and All You Can Eat Stories. His stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune. He currently directs the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City, IA.