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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, by Bill Bryson (Read by the author)

7.5 HOURS ON 6 CDs

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

What was life like in the fifties? This audio book takes the listener on a hilarious and thoughtful guided tour of growing up in mid-America in the 1950s, thanks to best-selling humorist, Bill Bryson. Convinced that such a special child as he couldn't possibly have been born of earthly mortals, Billie Bryson dons a discarded costume, wraps a towel around his neck for a cape, names himself the Thunderbolt Kid, and proceeds to mentally annihilate anyone who creates obstacles in his childhood universe. The listener is happily allowed to tag along as Bryson recreates the sights, sounds, emotions, values and experiences of growing up in an America that existed 50 years ago.

His family was different from many, in that his mother had a steady job at a time when it was almost immoral for women to work outside the home. Interspersed with Bryson's comical descriptions of her inadequacies as a cook and housekeeper are serious references to laws that actually restricted women's rights to work. This is a common theme throughout the book. While he jokes about the absurdity of the bizarre conditions that encouraged people to treat atomic detonations outside Las Vegas as entertainment, complete with atomic cocktails and Miss Atomic Bomb., he points out that the majority of the milk produced by cows exposed to the fallout was consumed by those least able to withstand radiation poisoning, the children of the area.

This audio book could be considered a cultural reference work for the fifties. Bryson describes everything that makes up a child's world-school, the neighborhood, relatives, family vacations, holidays, friends, games, toys, sports, movies, television shows, clothing, food, candy, injuries, fears and fantasies. His mention of Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, Slinkys, chemistry sets, Silly Putty, comic books, Roy Rogers boots and cap guns creates instant nostalgia for anyone who remembers or can imagine the innocence of another time. Listening to Bryson recall his childhood memories is like strolling through a museum, and it gives older listeners an opportunity to create their own mental museums where they can recall, sort and store their own memories.

There are enough laugh-out-loud moments in this audio book to qualify it as a comedy album. Bryson asserts that the intoxicating fumes of mimeograph worksheets in second grade are responsible for older adults' trips to rehab facilities today. Mixed with the comedy is serious and informative commentary about the history of the 1950s. Bryson's dry deadpan narration is excellent, with just the right mixture of humility and bravado. Highly recommended!

Ruth Mormon

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