3 out of 4 stars
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William Benson has led an extremely interesting life. Not only did his childhood experiences shape the adult that he became, but his adult life was anything but mundane. This memoir spins a tale of one man’s struggles as he grows up, his professional battles (both political and physical) as a police officer, and the turmoil that was his personal life.
Life of a Guardian: Protect and Serve by William Benson is a memoir that goes through the trials and tribulations the author faced throughout his life. It describes his life as a young boy in the Deep South, as a military dependent overseas in Germany, as an adolescent growing up on various posts stateside, as a young recruit in the military, and as a police officer in a politically and racially tense mid-20th century America. The book describes, in a very frank and straightforward manner, the actions performed and the thoughts he had in each of the distinct stages of his life. He does not shy away from the potentially embarrassing or unpleasant parts of his life either. For example, he describes the emotional traumas that caused his chronic bed-wetting which lasted well into adulthood and how this problem affected both growing up and leading a normal adult life. He goes into great detail on his attempts at physical intimacy with girls growing up and eventually the details of his rocky relationships as an adult. He describes many of the tense, violent, exciting, and sometimes funny experiences he had as a police officer in the Deep South and eventually further east.
This memoir was definitely an interesting read. William Benson’s life has had its ups and downs and I enjoyed sharing in his experiences by reading the book. I liked how he took a “no nonsense” approach to writing this memoir and how he was very honest about things that he thought and did. This brings a real-life perspective to the read which is necessary to trust the author’s accounts. Even if these thoughts/actions were embarrassing, vulgar, stupid, or downright illegal, Benson told the story as it happened. What I like the best about reading this memoir is that it gave me insights into a life that is so dissimilar to my own that it gave me a completely different perspective of those around me. For example, I loved reading about his time in Germany as a child not only because of the cultural differences, but also because of the fact that it was so soon after WWII. I enjoyed the tales of when he was on the police force not only for the action, but also the descriptions of racial tension and prejudice I haven’t experienced in my life. All in all, for a relatively short memoir, this was an interesting glimpse into the rocky life of the author.
There were a few issues that I had with the book, both in its editing and its writing. There were a few spelling mistakes here and there as well as a couple of editing issues. For example, to start of the book there was a chapter labelled “Epilogue” where it should have been “Prologue.” The writing itself was usually fine, but I found at times that the language used was either forced or came off as unnatural. For example, when talking about his father having a couple of drinks with a friend, he referred to it awkwardly as a “beer drinking session.” What I disliked the most however is how, at a couple of different instances during the book, the author repeated nearly the exact same text/descriptions in two separate chapters rather than simply making reference back to the first instance or omitting it entirely.
I sincerely enjoyed reading Life of a Guardian and for that reason I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. I think that William Benson does a very good job in summarizing his life and making it interesting for the reader. The editing / writing style issues I had with the book were enough to inhibit me from giving the memoir a perfect score. If you are a fan of reading memoirs, especially ones with frank descriptions of personal issues and the (sometimes terrible) world around us, this book may be for you. If you either don’t like memoirs or are turned off by an author delving into extremely personal situations, you might not like this book.
Life of a Guardian
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