Iowa native Peterson’s memoir focuses on his coming-of-age and survival in a changing America.
Peterson was born in the Midwest in 1952—the same year the hydrogen bomb was first unleashed. Here, he examines his life growing up as a baby boomer, as well as his relationship with America’s shifting political climate and his numerous brushes with death, be it a car accident he barely avoids, talking his way out of the Army after being drafted during the Vietnam War, falling into a vat of acid and nearly losing his leg, or various other near misses. Along the way, Peterson offers his opinions on notable political matters of his day. His ability to recollect is consistently impressive: He often goes into great detail, particularly with regard to his friends, his jobs and his cars. His romantic relationships are an exception, though, as they’re generally left vague. When other people offend him, the author sometimes comes off as bitter, but he seems to take his sometimes dire circumstances in stride. The book’s mostly conversational tone allows the author’s voice to seep through in charming, unexpected ways. Elsewhere, though, the writing can be clunky, which is a shame, since Peterson often makes interesting points via analogies and descriptions that would be clever if they were more eloquently stated. Additionally, the overuse of scare quotes distracts from compelling lines that don’t need more emphasis.
A vivid, enlightening story about a man living through a unique time in America’s history, but the presentation doesn’t do the story justice.