Observant, affecting writing about an Australian childhood.

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THE MAGICAL APPEARANCE OF EARTHWORMS

Moncrief’s debut memoir recalls the joys and sorrows of growing up in an Australian country town.

“It was the late 1960s,” remarks the author, “but we were still living in what was effectively 1950s rural Australia.” Along with his older brother, Darren, Moncrief was raised in Tilburn, 30 miles outside of Melbourne. The memoir focuses predominantly on vivid memories from the author’s childhood in a quiet town where “everyone minded their own business and kept mostly to themselves.” Moncrief recalls journeys to a racetrack with his father, who trained horses, befriending a lizard that lived under the back step of the family home, and nursing an injured sparrow back to health. These sensitive recollections are interspersed with tales of cruelty and abuse. As a young boy, the author admits, he received so many bloody noses from his brother that one of his nostrils became “permanently blocked.” The memoir also charts the author’s coping with his parents’ divorce and grappling with adolescence. Each chapter is built around a particular person or event that left an impression on the author’s young mind. One, for example, discusses the author’s first sight of a pregnant woman and his father’s remarking, “pregnant women are beautiful.” This heavily anecdotal approach has the potential to grow tiring, but Moncrief avoids that by capturing a young boy’s naiveté in a satisfyingly amusing manner: “I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with her—that big, swollen stomach bursting forth from her body!” The author has the power to tug at the reader’s emotions—after his lizard was killed by a bully, he writes sorrowfully: “[I] pushed his little body into the crack from where I’d taken him the night before. ‘I’m so sorry, little mate,’ I said. ‘I love you so much.’ ” Moncrief puts a recognizably Australian stamp on the memoir by using Aussie vernacular, from dunny (toilet) to chooks (chickens). Tenderly evoking the minutiae of childhood while celebrating liberation from its horrors, this thoughtfully written, well-balanced book will encourage readers to reflect on their own upbringings.

Observant, affecting writing about an Australian childhood.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72839-716-0

Page Count: 234

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.

INTO TROUBLE

In this memoir, an American man recounts heading to Europe to see his German girlfriend and ending up on the wrong side of the law in Franco’s Spain.

Gorman was 19 years old in 1969 and dreading the thought of the Vietnam War draft. He had a girlfriend, a German exchange student named Hilke, who had encouraged him to meet her in Hamburg. Anxious to escape his rough home life, the author left Washington state and hitchhiked across America, getting into some precarious situations along the way. He made it to Europe via Icelandic Airlines, followed by more hitchhiking to Hamburg. Gorman was tall, blond, and young, but he wasn’t quite ready for the women he met on the way to West Germany, and he was only thinking of Hilke. Unfortunately, her reception was somewhat cool, so he ventured on to Paris and Barcelona, loving the sights but not the winter weather. A friend encouraged him to go to the Canary Islands, and the author readily agreed (“If Barcelona was dark and mysterious, Las Palmas was vibrant as it basked in a golden Impressionistic glow”). Las Palmas wasn’t very touristy yet; Swedish women lined the beaches; and the cost of living was cheap. Even so, Gorman was wayward, often slept on the beach, and some of his friends were sketchy. A Canadian lured him into a tricky insurance scam, which promised a decent payout but came with risks for a naïve person in Fascist Spain. The author’s wistful, graceful memoir harkens back to the days when Europe wasn’t completely overrun with tourists and the cultural norms were more clear-cut. His vivid, penniless romp around Europe included adventures both big and small, some danger, and the occasional kindness from strangers. It’s an engaging story that has enough unlikely details to seem believable, especially as he entered the Spanish prison system. Like many travelers, Gorman mainly associated with expatriates, so the local Canarian culture is left in the background.

A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-94847-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Rain City Cinema LLC

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2022

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A fast-paced and boisterously readable assemblage of true stories.

WHO NEEDS HEAVEN?

TRUE STORIES

A memoir offers vignettes from an entire lifetime.

In his latest work of nonfiction, Binder looks back on his life and renders several incidents and themes in a series of autobiographical stories. The author has led a picaresque life, with many adventures and crises, and he’s inserted many of these escapades into the entertaining, touching, and often enlightening tales arranged in these pages. He takes readers back to his childhood, painting affectionate portraits of the many people who influenced him while he was growing up. Binder includes a particularly memorable remembrance of his mother, who was felled by a serious stroke that robbed her of her speech (“Visiting her in the human warehouse they call a hospital, I’d point to letters of the alphabet printed on a card and she would blink to spell the word she wanted to convey”). He also gives readers a captivating, behind-the-scenes look at the famous child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. Binder worked on the crew that produced the Academy Award–winning 1972 documentary about Gortner’s illusion-dispelling revival tour, in which he exposed the deceits of his childhood ministry. The author watched all of this up close and relates it with enthusiasm and sympathy. (Sometimes a touch too much sympathy, since at one point even Binder seems convinced by the enthusiasm of the crowd: “I don’t believe in magic, nor do I believe in God, but I do believe in miracles. I witnessed one.”) Whether he’s recalling partying with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson in Las Brisas, Texas, or recounting the fracas he and his partner got into in 1966 at the Albany Convention Center when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was speaking (“Reporters grabbed at our feet trying to trip us up and bring us down. They failed. I was exhilarated”), the author has clearly told most of these tales many times in his life. These written versions are fine-tuned to perfection and provide a large and constantly moving banquet of intriguing moments.

A fast-paced and boisterously readable assemblage of true stories.

Pub Date: March 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9998695-5-0

Page Count: 363

Publisher: F-Stop Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2020

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