Lauren's Reviews > Where's My Wand?: One Boy's Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting

Where's My Wand? by Eric Poole
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Sep 09, 10

Read from August 01 to 02, 2010

Reviewed in conjunction with I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth

I read these memoirs back to back inside of a week and, despite their differences, it’s difficult to review them separately. At their core, both are memoirs about growing up as the outlier in a Southern Baptist family and finding personal faith within that environment. The authors differ in their approach – Mr. Poole glides through his tome with humor while religion is front, center, and sideways in Ms. Peterson’s world.

I began I Want to Be Left Behind with the wrong expectations: I expected a funny, touching account of Ms. Peterson’s journey while the book is much more of a flat arc detailing her status as the odd duck of her family. If you’re looking for a story of a journey from religious to spiritual, go elsewhere.

For that matter, I expected some scandal after seeing Ms. Peterson’s youngest sister’s incessant “reviews” on any and every site before reading the book (which is interesting, given some of the information I found that indicated the sister likely has her own agenda in taking a family feud public). There’s no scandal or, for that matter, any real tension in the book: there’s a lot of telling but no showing. The characters are neither demons nor saints – rather, they’re flat. Ms. Peterson’s unresolved issues and passive aggressive tone overwhelm the book. If anyone comes across poorly here, it’s her. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought she was closer to twenty than sixty: at some point, adults need to make peace with their childhood and move on – especially if one is going to write a book about finding rapture on earth.

But it’s the lack of arc that I find difficult to forgive. This memoir suggests (although Ms. Peterson denies this) that she exchanged one type of extreme and narrow viewpoint for another. This book is what I classify as the worst sort of memoir: self-centered ramblings from someone with an unjustified superiority complex.

After I Want to Be Left Behind, I apprehensively began Where’s My Wand? as I couldn’t handle additional literary narcissism. In June, I had attended an author event for the book, and it ranks as one of the worst author talks I’ve ever attended. While Mr. Poole was generally amusing (although his comment indicating the book was simply a way to get a foot in the door for a television show bugged – books are more than a stepping stone to Hollywood! They are their own art form!), the crowd was mostly his friends and associates (despite being a public event, I felt like I was intruding on a private party) and were the worst of shallow Los Angeles. I did stay for the event, and despite finding the excerpt entertaining, I left without a copy of the book, unsure if I would even read the book. However, the excerpt had been quite good, and I overcame my annoyance and checked the book out of the library.

I say all of this to explain that despite a desire to hate this book, I found it everything charming. It’s a sweet book that’s funny and touching and lightly veers between both with no effort. It has much more of an arc that one would expect from a book compared to David Sedaris’ work. Each chapter is a vignette while also part of a story about growing up and learning about the elusive and changing nature of imagination, faith, and identity. Mr. Poole successfully walks a fine line and deftly captures his family’s foibles while still loving them. As a child of the Midwest myself, I loved how Mr. Poole embraced the humor in a Midwestern upbringing without mocking it. This book could have very easily been either a rant about unresolved childhood issues or an uncomfortable satire full of unlovable characters. Instead it navigates the line between the two, and the result is both genuine and funny (and if that’s because Mr. Poole is simply a master advertiser, frankly, I like my ignorance and belief that it is real).

I’m sure some people will disagree and say these books have nothing in common, that the authors had different goals in writing them. That may be true, but I still found them interesting contrasts. They demonstrate that as adults, we have two choices when it comes to our formative years: we can focus on the negative and let our upbringings drag us down, or we can embrace the good, learn from the bad, and let both launch us into the rest of our lives. These two books capture those two extremes, and here, it is only the latter that succeeds. And so, I recommend only Where’s My Wand? (along with the suggestion to check it out from a library rather than purchase it).
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