Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson, 2006
288 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2008

It's Bill Bryson, so you know it's funny. And it is—wonderfully. But it's also a gorgeous evocation of the 1950's, those halcyon years that followed the depression and war, when prosperity was spreading among a burgeoning middle class. For many life was sweet.

It was a life in which adults waxed poetically about new refrigerators, nary a tear for the old icebox; in which kids devised their own play, outdoors; and when people, even youngsters, could walk to town.

It was a time when sidewalks were shaded by overhanging elms and chestnuts—in fact, when there were sidewalks...or elm and chestnut trees. Downtowns were actual places—with local stores and eateries unique to every community. Mickey D, Burger King, and Wendys? Not quite yet.

But then Bryson, being Bryson, refuses to leave us floating on the surface of leafy recollections. He'll always take us a little deeper, to a darker part of his vision, as he does in A Walk in the Woods. In Thunderbolt he reminds us about the fall-out from nuclear testing—onto the unsuspecting residents of Nevada and South Pacific islands. And he reminds us that, even then, more and more autos crowded the roads, more roads cut through the countryside, and more countryside sprouted chain stores and strip malls.

Don't miss this book...especially if you've lived through the era that Bryson did...or if your parents did and you'd like a bird's-eye view of their growing-up years. It's a terrific read.

See our Reading Guide for The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

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