Author: Mikel Jollett
To Be Published: May 26, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Dates Read: April 11-26, 2020
Hollywood Park is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.
We were never young. We were just too afraid of ourselves. No one told us who we were or what we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion. …
So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.
In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.
Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal.
I had not heard of Mikel Jollett before receiving my arc copy of Hollywood Park, but his is a story where you do not have to be familiar with the person to see how much they overcome. Mikel started life in the cult of Synanon and was taken away from his parents at 6 months of age, as all children of the cult were. Several years later, his mother gets away from the cult with Mikel and his older brother but they still experience a very hard life.
Jollett writes his memoir in a unique way: He starts off the novel at five years old and ‘talks’ as that age with everything that is going on around him. As he becomes older and understands more, so does his telling of his story, in the age he is at that time. Even as a small child, he was wiser than his actual age. Not many would be able to tell their story in this way with success. This memoir shows the addiction that occurs and the devastating effects of it on the addict and also the effects on the addict’s loved ones. There is also loss that occurs and we can really feel the emotions that Jollett expresses. He is a musical artist after all, so those words come well to him.
Memoirs are always hard to review, as it is someone’s life and their experiences/ interpretation of events, but this one reaches a cord with the reader. We all have different life experiences and those experiences shape who we become as a person. Jollet sharing his story with the reader through writing or through his lyrics of the songs his band performs can help others with their experiences and interpretations.
Jollett’s band The Airborne Toxic Event has a new cd coming out on May 22nd. It is also titled Hollywood Park, just as this memoir. It is the band’s first album in three years.
Many thanks to the publisher, Celadon Books for sending me an arc copy to read and review.
Jessica listened to the audiobook of Educated earlier this year and now it is Kim’s turn to review it. Kim read it with her neighborhood book club. Jessica’s 5 star review is here.
Author: Tara Westover
Published: February 20, 2018
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.
What a crazy read. All kinds of feelings came out while I was reading this book. I’m gonna start out with some small criticisms. It did feel a bit extraordinarily embellished at times. I had a hard time believing that ALL of that happened within one family. However, I will say that it is a memoir, not an academic historic work. There is room for more storytelling. My other issue is that I was hoping there would be more about her actual education. With a title like that, one would think this book would be more about schooling, when in reality, it’s far more a family saga. But those little things aside, I really enjoyed this book.
I have never in my life been more thankful for my family. My parents managed to raise independent thinking adults out of an environment of groupthink. Plus, my parents balanced discipline and love in a very effective way. So many things in this book were so familiar, yet I was shocked page after page. I also appreciated how she stayed away from sweeping generalizations about religion and politics. She so easily could have turned this book into a condemnation of any one group with certain beliefs, but she kept her judgements condensed to the people within the story. I think this would be a great book for the teens of today, to counteract some of the entitlement and whining. But I would recommend this book to pretty much everybody.[Top]
Full Support: Lessons Learned in the Dressing Room
Author: Natalee Woods
To Be Published: December 3, 2019
Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Dates Read: November 1-9, 2019
Lingerie is the foundation for every woman’s wardrobe, but it’s also where we feel the most pressure to be beautiful—and feel the most shame at falling short of impossible standards. Concerns about our age, body type, family expectations, jobs, and romantic partners crowd into the dressing room with us. The result is a bra that fits other people’s standards instead of our own bodies.
As a bra-fitter at a high-end department store for more than a decade, Natalee Woods watched women bravely facing down their fears and embracing what worked for them. Full Support shares their stories alongside judgment-free secrets for a good fit.
Full Support has had a long journey to publication, which is still to come in the next few weeks. It is Natalee Woods’ debut memoir of her 10 years working in a fitting room in the lingerie section of a high end store. If you have ever worked in retail, you know some of what Natalee feels, but her job was much more personal to the women she fitted. We live in a world where 8 out of 10 women are in the wrong size bra, and this candid memoir is for every woman out there as it shows how society pressures us about our ‘imperfect bodies’ and influences us in every way possible.
We meet a variety of Natalee’s customers in many different situations. These customers (women, men, and transgender) give the reader a mix of emotions from hilarious (an entertaining and raucous bridal party) to the serious (women dealing with mastectomies to a widowed father trying to find his daughter a bra) to the anger-inducing (an over the top beauty pageant mom). And we see how Natalee handles each situation, as each customer has unique and specific needs.
It is a quick and enjoyable read. It is a memoir and Natalee also goes into her family situations, which includes a death, but for me it took away from the rest of the book. I was not attached to Natalee; I just wanted to read more stories from the fitting room.
Most of my bra shopping is done online as most stores do not carry the much larger sizes. I do remember when I was getting fitted for undergarments to wear under my wedding dress and I knew I was in the wrong size bra, but to find out my actual size was shocking. The bra fitter helped to put me at ease and made a nerve wracking experience pleasant. Every woman needs a positive fitting experience and Natalee helped to give her customers what they needed. If only more stores catered to the larger sizes and had some cute bras that were not over the top price wise!
Full Support is recommended for every woman out there! Special thanks to the publisher Amberjack Publishing for granting me an arc.[Top]