NOTHING SPECIAL by John E  Budzinski

NOTHING SPECIAL

Just a Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Pennsylvania author and photographer shares spirited vignettes of joy and bittersweet change from a life of “hitches and contradictions.”  

Vastly pensive and thoughtful, Budzinski’s debut memoir reflects on the nature of death and lingers over its inevitability while pondering the importance of leaving a lasting legacy in one’s wake. As he aged, intellectual retention, the nature of memories, and living in the moment became paramount. “Enjoy the current moment and live it as best you can, because right now is the last time you will see it,” the Polish sexagenarian counsels. Always amiable, proactive, and never preachy, the author is a charming writer who applies a smooth conversational tone to the generous anecdotal mementos he shares. Committing a life to print is no easy task, he admits, recognizing that recollections fade with time and that there are so many “dots to connect” in order to fully and appropriately commemorate an eventful journey. Budzinski reaches back to his earliest days and draws stories from his youth in the 1960s and ’70s, delivering newspapers, bravely racing across spooky cemeteries with boyhood friends, loving Treasure Island and Star Wars, and serving as an impressionable altar boy. Young adulthood at a college in Virginia brought its share of new experiences and challenges. The author also contributes some favorite unique gifts he’s received and thought-provoking “life is strange” moments where interpersonal foibles make for humorous and intriguing reading.

Some tales strike a more bittersweet note, as when Budzinski remembers his father who died when he was 8 years old and regrets that he “never had the chance to make promises to him.” Some recollections reflect the many transitions the author experienced, whether through childhood friendships, family, or other people, including Jennifer, the daughter of a longtime friend, whom he grew closer to as the years passed. Though some material becomes repetitive and his rhetorical questions tend to overwhelm pivotal points at times, all of Budzinski’s anecdotes and collected impressions are expressed unhurriedly, with exacting detail and the kind of writerly personality and passion that is delightfully palpable across the pages. “Many moments we carry with us will never make the highlight reel,” he laments. “We edit them out from the book of love that is our story.” Whether humorous, poignant, or insightfully sage, his tales and amiable prose will become cherished reading for older readers who can relate to the author’s need to savor memories and commit the best of the bunch to a significant, living epitaph of his days on Earth. Like spending a long, lazy afternoon on the front porch swing with a chatty, beloved grandparent, Budzinski’s personal stories resonate with all the grace, humor, dignity, and earned wisdom of a life well-lived.

A jovial, greatly contemplative, and uplifting memoir comprising anecdotes and apt memorialization mixed with an unmatched zest for life.   

Page count: 203pp
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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