3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Directions to the Dumpster is an autobiographical account of 10 turbulent years in the life of author Edward Campagnola. It is a period that sees him go from being happily married and living in a blended family, to being homeless, separated from his children, and living on the streets of Sonoma County, California. In the telling of his story, the author shines a light on what it’s like to be homeless, and why it is that people find themselves in such a desperate situation.
The story opens in Sonoma County. Eddie, or Fast Eddie as he’s known, is living on the street and sleeping next to a dumpster. He earns a few dollars carrying a sign for a mattress store. The store provides Eddie with a refuge from the dangers out on the street. As Eddie puts it, “This is the Wild West and anything goes.” (Page 10) He is constantly at risk of being attacked or having his few possessions stolen. He deals with the stress of this by self-medicating with drugs. The bulk of the book describes how Eddie got to this point. It is a tale of tragedy, tempestuous relationships, bad luck, and bad decisions. It is Eddie’s view that often it is a lack of love and support from family members that provide an individual with the “directions to the dumpster.” (page 12) The same lack of support means that there’s often no easy way back from the dumpster once you’re there. One turns the pages of this book wondering if Eddie will get enough support to find his way home.
I liked that Eddie is honest with his story. He doesn’t try to sugar-coat the events that have brought him low. While he argues that he is more a victim of circumstances than the author of his own misfortune, he puts the details down on the page and allows readers to form their own judgment. I also liked that the book has just a tincture of the American road novel genre; aside from one actual road trip the author takes with his son, he drives across the country between New Jersey and California on more than one occasion. Finally, I enjoyed the author’s musical references. In times of crisis, Eddie turns to music for support, quoting song lyrics at some length; U2, Van Morrison, and John Lennon all get a mention. If the book ever gets made into a movie, the soundtrack has already been chosen by the author!
Eddie tells us in the book that he wrote the manuscript in a public library. It is a laudable achievement that someone living on the street, without the usual resources available to an author, was able to produce a book that tells such an interesting story. Given this situation, however, it is unsurprising that the book has not been professionally edited. The one aspect of it that I didn’t like is the high number of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors that mar what is an otherwise excellent book.
I’m giving this book 3 out of 4 stars, deducting one star on account of the many errors. The book is written for adults, as it contains some salty language along with some quite explicit descriptions of sexual activity. I recommend it to readers who aren’t put off by that kind of writing and who enjoy uncompromising, real-life stories.
Directions to the Dumpster
View: on Bookshelves