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Starbuck O'Dwyer's childhood memoir, How to Raise a Good Kid, is so good that I would believe that he is secretly a celebrity memoir ghost writer (Hello? Mindy Kaling? Do you know anything about this?). It would fit nicely with his already impressive list of jobs, including lawyer, radio host, novelist (I've heard great things about Red Meat Cures Cancer) and graduate from every Ivy League school ever. Of course, if his memoir is to be believed, having multiple jobs may be genetic since his father was apparently a military advisor, a deacon, a business owner and a university alumni representative who interviewed screened prospective students. That seems like a lot of things. Through it all, though, his dad's main job was as awesome super dad who, along with his mom, taught young Starbuck invaluable life lessons that still resound today.
There are a few things about this collection of childhood stories that I did find a bit confusing, however. For one, the names. Apart from having a childhood filled with a collection of the most unlikely-named friends and neighbours (the minister's name is Rev. Showalter...like Show Altar?) Starbuck's own very unusual name is never once mentioned in the book. I assumed it was a pseudonym, but his website and online presence seems to insist it is not. Still, there is not a single story about growing up with a strange first name,
the thought process behind his parents' decision to give him such a moniker, or even a single instance of someone calling him by that or any other first name. In all of the stories his parents call him "son" or "dear" and his peers call him "O'Dwyer." I suspect this means that he was never called "Starbuck" as a child but something much more ordinary, like Jeff. Still, it's strange he wouldn't mention that, considering it is a memoir about his childhood.
There's also the matter of the elusive sister. In some stories his sister Pam factors in heavily, like on family road trips or a story about bullies and childhood snow fort building. Yet in others she is conspicuously absent, like in the story about his parents going to Germany for a month and leaving him with the neighbours. Where was his sister? Or the story about waiting for his mom to come home from work (she was a teacher, so it wouldn't have normally been a long wait from when he came home from school to when she did) only to panic when she didn't return until five o'clock. Her explanation was that she thought she told him she would be delayed but "I guess I only told your sister." But where was his sister? Why didn't she explain their mom's delay? Why was young "Son O'Dwyer" home alone when he clearly had a sibling?
These sort of questions would probably not even come up if I had read the book as a collection of unconnected stories that could be picked up and read randomly, one chapter here and there, instead of as a cover-to-cover read in two or three sittings.
Still, it's MUCH better than a lot of celebrity memoirs I've read (which I recently realized is a pretty large group...when did I become the person who reads so many celebrity memoirs?) so maybe Starbuck O'Dwyer SHOULD consider a career as a professional ghostwriter. And I'm definitely going to track down a copy of Red Meat Cures Cancer. Oh, and the author sent me a copy of his other book, Goliath Gets Up (THANK-YOU!!) so I can't wait to read that too.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher/author through the LibraryThing.com Members Giveaway program. I was asked to post an honest review (though not necessarily a favourable one). The opinions expressed are strictly my own.