2 out of 4 stars
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James E. Doucette started to write the book at his wife’s advice, as a memory recovery method, while he was struggling with cancer treatment. The author recalls his childhood on his grandfather’s farm in Maine, at the beginning of World War II. Then, his family moved to New York, and he had to adapt to a new lifestyle. Poverty taught him important survival skills; he was working to stay in school, and he learned to fend for himself. His parents were separated, and his mother worked hard to support the children, while his father, a war hero, succumbed to alcoholism. Doucette joined the U.S. Navy and then finished college; he had many jobs and moved a lot together with his wife and children. He finally started his own business in Texas together with his wife; after retirement, he bought a ranch, opening a new chapter in his life.
First of all, I appreciated the presentation of the book. The editing was exceptional, and the real pictures of the family added authenticity to the story. Also, the memoir has a lot of lessons extracted after different experiences. The author warns that looks can be deceiving and addiction can be inherited. Also, it is essential to have a dream in life and be thankful for what you got. The writer believes in rehabilitation and talks about “the nobility of poverty”; you should respect people that work, no matter the job. I was very impressed when he remembered that he didn’t go to school because he couldn’t find his socks.
However, I must admit that I struggled to finish the book because it was not very engaging. The author felt the need to mention countless unnecessary names and mundane happenings. I appreciate the memory exercise, but that was not very interesting for the reader. The book started as a memoir, but then the author added self-development tips and focused a lot on the business. I felt like that melange didn’t bring any value; on the contrary, it diluted the main message.
The book is very educational about America after WWII, so people who lived at that time might find all the stories interesting. Of course, people who like memoirs will appreciate going on a trip down memory lane. But I don’t recommend the book people under 35 because there is a huge gap between generations. For instance, Doucette remembers that children entertained themselves by making up games using just a ball, and they were never bored. It is challenging to imagine that nowadays, with the internet and social media.
After careful consideration, I rate The Not So Great American Novel by James E. Doucette 2 out of 4 stars. I found it dull, and I couldn’t relate to his experiences, even if I appreciated the author’s struggles and accomplishments. It might be my fault, as I am from a different country, but I have also read some interesting educational books about America.
The Not So Great American Novel
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