2 out of 4 stars
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Samuel: My Life Story by Samuel Kidstar is a deeply interesting memoir about the life of a young man who grows up to be an ironworker as he goes through a great many hardships, one of which centers largely around the abusive nature of his father. His life is chronicled through the many changes and layoffs faced by ironworkers over time, including the input of new safety regulations and the availability of work due to major crises and based on location. Samuel was a first responder to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He spent a fair amount of time moving from place to place as he followed jobs across the country and he found a great deal of love in an activity known as skydiving.
I have mixed feelings about this book and, for the longest time, was unsure how I would rate it. I really enjoyed reading about all of Samuel's experiences, but they did get a little repetitive after a while particularly where his work was concerned. As someone who genuinely knows very little about ironworkers and what they have to face, it was a welcome enlightenment to read about their regular struggles and experiences. Samuel's voice was very entertaining and held pieces of wisdom that were a true pleasure to read. I was most enamored with his opinion of religion, something that I found refreshing as not many people speak so bluntly when they have a belief such as his. For this reason, however, I do not think I would recommend this book to most Christians.
What I loved most about this book boils down to three things: the author's voice, his connection to his family (his grandparents in particular), and the abundance of new information I learned about the experiences of ironworkers, especially those who had to work through changes in the industry. Kidstar has a strong narrative tone, one he uses well to portray his experiences and views. I am also one who is always looking to learn something new and I don't know if I would have ever learned much about this particular topic without having read this memoir.
While I was excited and pleased to be reading about and learning new things from a world that I have no experience in and little knowledge of, there were times that I felt Kidstar did not fully anticipate the idea that someone who was not an ironworker would be reading his book. There were a number of terms used throughout the course of the book that I wasn't familiar with and sometimes had to look up. I'm not very familiar with worker's unions and therefore had no idea what Kidstar meant when he referenced Local 55 and numerous others. I think his book definitely could benefit from including some more information in a way that allows readers who are not aware of specific terms to easily understand what he is talking about as it can become rather distracting.
I definitely left this book feeling as though Samuel had an interesting life and was glad to have read about it, but I did feel that the pacing of the book was somewhat strained. Kidstar spends much of his time merely detailing various events in his life, putting them in a very stiff chronological order. The book's chapters felt poorly organized as experiences were simply lumped together based on the age the author was when they occurred rather than connected to each other in a way that flowed. This, I feel, is what led to some repetitiveness in various descriptions regarding his work.
Finally, while I loved reading about his experiences as a skydiver, I had a hard time connecting those experiences to the rest of his memoir. In the strangest of ways, it almost felt as though it didn't fit with the story that was being told but I could feel how truly meaningful and important these moments were to Kidstar's life. There was a strong emotion mixed with it and I felt truly happy for his ability to have continued on with this activity that he loved so much.
Ultimately, I was not a fan of the way he sectioned his story and I feel that Kidstar could benefit greatly from finding a way to make it flow in a more natural way. The beginning of his book does feel rather stiff at times and his language can, at times, fail to be sensitive. While I was not immensely bothered by this, I do recognize that it will likely offend some others. I definitely think this book would be a great read for other ironworkers and anyone looking to learn about the lives they lead. I am giving Samuel: My Life Story a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. While I did deeply enjoy reading this book, I do believe there is a lot of room for improvement and I don't think it's for everyone. If the pacing of the memoir had been executed in a more succinct manner, I feel as though I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
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