King of the Mild Frontier : An Ill-Advised Autobiography
by Crutcher, Chris

Chris Crutcher, author of young adult novels such as "Ironman" and "Whale Talk," as well as short stories, tells of growing up in Cascade, Idaho, and becoming a writer.

/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 8-12. Like his novels, Crutcher's autobiography is full of heartbreak, poignancy, and hilarity. Candid and casual, Crutcher shares stories from his childhood and adolescence in Cascade, Idaho. Reminiscences of some of his youthful rites of passage are laugh-out-loud funny, such as his humiliating initiation into his high-school athletic club. On a more serious note, he discusses his occasionally rocky relationships with his parents and siblings. He talks openly about his struggles with a bad temper that constantly got him into trouble, how he came to terms with questions about God, how he confronted intolerance, and how he found his own place in the world. He also shares several painful glimpses into his work as a child and family therapist trying to help people heal some very broken lives. This honest, insightful, revealing autobiography is a joy to read. Crutcher's fans will relish this intimate glimpse of the author, and the book may win some new readers for his fiction. ((Reviewed April 15, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

Telling the story of growing up in a tiny Idaho town, Crutcher relates how "an unusual path leads from my life as a coonskin-cap-wearing, pimply-faced, 123-pound offensive lineman with a string of spectacularly dismal attempts at romance, to a storyteller of modest acclaim." His father was a bomber pilot who had settled into a small-town life of running a wholesale oil and gas business, his mother a ghostly, drinking, chain-smoking presence who died of emphysema. Early scenes read like Gary Paulsen's Harris and Me (1993) or Jack Gantos's Jack Henry tales. Now a child-abuse therapist, Crutcher is clear that his awareness of social cruelty began with the adolescent cruelty of high-school life. What might have been just a volume of funny or unsettling anecdotes becomes a candid take on lessons learned, with a clear adult perspective. This is a good read and a deeply moral and philosophical work with important messages about life, death, relativity, heroism, and why bad things sometimes happen to good people. Like Gantos's Hole in My Life (2002), it tells a strong story to get at strong truths. Essential for the many fans of Crutcher's work, and new readers will go from here to his fiction. (Nonfiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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