4 out of 4 stars
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"Football was my family's salvation and destruction. It supported us. It set the pace of our daily lives. It opened doors for us. It provided us with community. Yet, it was the source of our family's greatest sorrow."
In the memoir, The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter's Tale of Family and Football, Lori Leachman chronicles her family's legacy. She recounts her parents' backgrounds, courtship, and lifelong commitment to one another and details her father, Lamar's career as a professional football coach, as well as his diagnosis and death from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. From her unique perspective as the middle child, Leachman shares memories, insights, and humor about growing up with a larger-than-life patriarch and the spirited matriarch whose fierce love cemented the family.
Let me begin by saying that while many aspects of the book will appeal to football fans, I enjoyed it immensely despite my disinterest in most sports. I related to Leachman's memoir, as someone who has lived in the South my whole life, being a resident of a small town for the past thirty years. Leachman's writing style is transparent and humorous. Her devotion to both her parents was evident, but she didn't sugarcoat what it was like to grow up as the daughter of a father who placed such a priority on achievements and competition. Leachman was also brutally honest regarding her shortcomings before having a clear understanding of the severity of her father's symptoms. "Throughout this time, my contributions to my parents' lives were unhelpful at best, and completely insensitive at worst."
Although much of the memoir chronicles the football career of Lamar and its impact on their family, I particularly enjoyed the humorous anecdotes involving her mother, Paula. On one occasion, her husband failed to come home at the appointed time. After Paula put her girls to bed, she tracked her husband down at his local hangout, playing cards. Decked out in her chenille bathrobe, night cream, and sponge curlers, she gave her husband a tongue-lashing in front of his friends, "I don't care if you are Jesus Christ and these are your disciples, you had better have your ass home in the next fifteen minutes unless you're lookin' to be crucified." Lamar was home in ten minutes.
This is one of those rare books that evokes laughter and tears. Given its focus on family relationships, it's as likely to bring back fond memories as it is to trigger painful ones. It spoke to me of cherishing loved ones and time and seeing the best in people even when they may be at their worst. I am unable to suggest any improvements for this beautifully written and professionally edited memoir. I wholeheartedly rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. Leachman's insights on advocating for medical care may be helpful to various readers. I recommend the book to those who enjoy nostalgic memoirs. It will also appeal to fans of Friday Night Lights, and of course, to fans of the sport.
The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen
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