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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid August 13, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.
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With his keen wit, Bill Bryson has made a name for himself as very capable writer. As if his very successful travel books and the widely popular A Short History of Nearly Everything weren’t enough to cement his status as an author worth reading, he has found a way to raise the bar even further with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

The book is Bryson’s memoir of growing up in middle America between the ’50s and ’60s. In all, it’s a look back at a childhood well enjoyed: every juvenile prank, childish pursuit, and flight of fancy (his “alter-ego” as the Thunderbolt Kid, for instance) recounted in vivid detail and with the occasional amusing hyperbole thrown in (such as his insistence that the old lady down the street was over seven hundred years old). What makes the book stand out, however, is Bryson’s uncanny ability to write with a genuine honesty that manages to impart a sense of wonder for a time when things were simpler and seemingly bathed in a golden hue.

It might be unusual to recommend a book on so narrow and apparently unremarkable a subject; yet the truth of the matter is that The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is great fun, certainly a very welcome escape to more innocent times. Bill Bryson has written a thoroughly personal tale about his childhood with tongue firmly in cheek — if not a wink and a smile — and in so doing sends a subtle reminder that the joys and mischief of childhood are nigh universal, and best remembered with bemused appreciation.

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