The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson

October 6, 2006
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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
Bill Bryson

Broadway
10/06/2006
Hardcover/270 pages
ISBN: 0-7679-1936-x
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"It is obvious Bryson’s heart, if not his home, is still rooted in the thick, rich topsoil of Iowa . . ."

The Thunderbolt Kid, with his powerful and devastating ThunderGaze, is out to destroy any moron who crosses his path.

In 1951 the New York Giants came from behind at the end of the season and tripped up the Dodgers’ easy pennant run, a feat never matched again in baseball history. In December of 1951, in the wake of a run-of-the-mill Yankee World Series win over the same Giants, Des Moines Register sportswriter William Bryson welcomed the latest addition to his family, Billy.

As a youngster Billy wonders if he is truly Bill and Mary’s natural son. His mother, a home furnishings editor who also works for the Register, burns everything she cooks. His father is a noted sportswriter devoted to isometric exercise—anywhere and everywhere. Billy’s father enjoys eating burned food and is exceedingly careful with his money.

One fateful day while playing in the basement Billy sees a wonderful bottle green, oiled wool jersey with a faded gold satin thunderbolt emblazoned on the front. He begins to understand the truth. He is the natural son of King Volton of the Planet Zizz and has super powers far beyond his ability to miss more days of school than children with polio and get into trouble of all shapes and sizes. He is the Thunderbolt Kid and can use his awesome powers to punish the morons who cross his path.

Unlike most memoirs that follow a chronological order, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir is part history and part memoir. Each chapter relates to a specific period or landmark in the 1950s and 1960s such as the opening of Disneyland and the space race. Bill Bryson’s memoir shares a witty charm and boyish mischief with Jean Shepherd’s, A Christmas Story, but adds a deeply profound sense of historical place that puts Bryson in a class by himself.

Bryson spares no one, including his conniving boyhood self. He lays bare the quirks and peccadilloes of the eccentric and mundane alike. His pithy and mischievous telling does not detract from Bryson’s basic earthy honesty. It is obvious Bryson’s heart, if not his home, is still rooted in the thick, rich topsoil of Iowa among the unforgettable characters of his family, friends and childhood acquaintances.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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