A Canadian boy struggles to fit in after his family relocates to a new town in this beguiling debut memoir by Doornink.
In 1966, Doornink was “not quite a teenager.” Raised in Winnipeg, his life changed dramatically when his father accepted a job at the Rexall Drug Company and the Doornink family relocated to the small Canadian prairie town of Yorkton. The author was an immediate outsider. He acquired the unfortunate nickname of “donkey” on his first day of school and was mocked for picking the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as his favorite football team. The book, which begins in September 1966 and ends in August 1967, is a series of vignettes that capture the journey toward teendom. In this time, he forged a friendship with Mark, a boy of similar age who, to Doornink’s disbelief, also hailed from Winnipeg; landed in all manner of amusing predicaments, such as when he was caught taking down laundry from a lady’s line to collect clothespins to attach to his bicycle wheels; and weathered the awkwardness and exhilaration of the school dance. Doornink possesses the rare ability to depict the precarious moment between childhood and adolescence. For instance, while his dad was driving, the boy was eager to help him light a cigarette. The lighter fell to the car floor, and as Doornink reached to retrieve it, his father accidently stepped on his hand, pressing it into the burning coil: “My brain screamed every swear word I’d ever heard but my mouth only managed a quiet, ‘Sorry, Dad.’ ” The division of the memoir into a series of anecdotes gives it a staccato feel. However, through each tale, it’s possible to discern Doornink’s gradual coming-of-age, which naturally propels the narrative. Reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s defiant first-person narrative in The Catcher in the Rye, and with echoes of the mischievous schoolboy escapades of Richmal Crompton’s Just William, this is a thought-provoking, fun read that captures the mood of the era.
A triumphant, emotionally insightful debut.