Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson, Random House, 2007, 404 pp

I read Bryson's memoir of growing up in the 1950s as research for my own memoir. As he did in A Walk in the Woods, he had me laughing out loud, long and hard. But the biggest revelation for me was the huge disparity between life as a boy child and life as a girl child during that decade. 

At least from his point of view, boys had much more freedom to roam, they were encouraged to be physical (sports, getting into fights, etc) and daring (trying cigarettes and booze, ditching school.) Emulating superheroes played a huge role in establishing a boy's identity. 

His mother worked outside the home; mine stayed at home being a housewife. His dad was a sports writer and traveled often; my dad was a secret writer but was home every night. Making parallels is always tricky.

I was reminded of the polio scare, how bad it was at the dentist, the things we didn't worry about such as fallout from nuclear testing, food additives and those clouds of DDT spray.

When I returned to my own writing, I had been fairly annihilated. Compared to Bryson's hyperbolic humor, my own recounting sounded serious, perhaps dull. It took a while but as I found my own voice again I also had to admit that for this female, growing up in the 1950s was not that funny.

(The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. Hi Judy,

    thank you so much for visiting my post earlier. It is so interesting to read your review about this book. From your writing I gather that we must be from the saem generation, I am only a couple of years younger than Bill Bryson and even though I grew up in a different country, my experiences of growing up during that time were different, too. Mind you, I had three younger brothers and grew up in the countryside but even though I was roaming the area with them, it also meant that I had to help more at home. Yes, growing up as a girl was never as much fun as growing up as a boy. I hope it has changed in the meantime. I have no daughters, so I can't judge that well.

    Anyway, thank you for your review and have a good weekend,
    Marianne from
    Let's Read

    1. Well, Marianne, I love your blog! Thank you for your story about growing up. I too only had sons but I watch my granddaughters and they are having good fun growing up in the new millennium!

    2. I love your blog, too. I'm just surprised not seeing my name on the follower's list even though I do follow you. Weird. Well, as long as I get the updates, I won't complain.

      No grandchildren, yet, but it would be nice to have a granddaughter one day. I am happy having only sons, though, since the female members of my family all suffer from migraine.

      Happy 4th of July,
      Marianne from
      Let's Read

    3. You are not on the followers list because, at least on my blog, when they changed to google+, the followers no longer get listed. But I can put you manually into my list of Blogs I Like.
      Thanks for the 4th of July wishes, especially since it is my country'
      s holiday and not yours.