A man reflects on a richly variegated life of child rearing, career upheavals, spiritual searching and quixotic political crusades in this colorful, rambling memoir.
The author has a lot of experience under his belt, including a hardscrabble boyhood during the Great Depression, service in the Navy in World War II, a 62-year marriage that produced seven kids and a work-history that swerved improbably from sales to Catholic adult-education to a stint as a Colorado state senator. He also has a probing intellect with an idealistic, liberal bent—he was a peace activist during the Vietnam War and a campaign worker for George McGovern—and a pronounced maverick streak. (His signature issue as a state senator was the legalization of industrial hemp, an initiative that put him in harness with movie-star/activist Woody Harrelson.) Casey wrote this autobiography over 30 years in stop-and-start installments that he gave to his children as Christmas keepsakes, and the result reads like a fragmented series of diary entries. The author meanders from chronicles of everyday doings in the present to reminiscences of the past, anecdotes about long-lost friends (including a man who went to Canada to raise marijuana and start a doomsday cult), pungent commentary on youthful sexual experiences, curmudgeonly diatribes against anti-smoking Nazis and tongue-in-cheek odes to the wonders of Grape Nuts. Fortunately, Casey is a lively writer who manages to hold the reader’s interest as he rummages through this miscellany of memories and peeves. There are darkly moving passages in which he recalls wanting to end his life because of soul-killing jobs or financial reversals, and cynically comical scenes of weathering dirty tricks and stultifying stump speeches on the campaign trail. Threaded through is Casey’s persistent questioning of his Catholic beliefs and of the meaning of his life, one leads him to a compelling affirmation of family and a disillusioned but never despairing faith that “God is no more than the reality of the dignity and value of every human being.”
An engaging if scattershot valedictory, full of hard-won insights.