Danae's Reviews > Do-Over!: In Which a Forty-Eight-Year-Old Father of Three Returns to Kindergarten, Summer Camp, the Prom, and Other Embarrassments

Do-Over! by Robin Hemley
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Nov 12, 09

Read in November, 2009

I thought the idea of this book (as aptly paraphrased by the title)was extremely interesting. Who doesn't have things they would like to go back and..re-experience, if not actually change? Getting into it, though, I found its application to be a lot more creepy than interesting. You want to let a random grown man sit next to my kindergartener, just to "experience" it? (and as a side-thought, if you WERE re-doing kindergarten, do you do it as yourself "I'm going to circle all the things that start with R faster than any of you! Ha ha!" or do you try to do it as you think a kindergartener would?) Most of his little experiences just came across as disturbing. In fairness, if anyone deserves to re-do kindergarten, he does. He does manage to make it funny in retelling it, though.
He seems completely unaware how bizarre some of his assumptions are-- in the chapter where he wants to go back and re-claim himself a childhood home,one of his friends tells him that he wouldn't let a stranger stay in his house, to which the author replies, "Until he said this, it hadn't occurred that anyone might have an objection." Seriously? Someone calls you up, says, "Hey, I lived here once. Any problem with me just staying here a week or so...no real agenda, just a general desire to hang out in your house..." and you see no problem there? As a mother of young children, and a woman who does not want to end up raped and murdered, I'm going to go ahead and say no, regardless of how warm-and-fuzzy your memories of my house 30 years ago were.
He also goes into a lot of detail about how he wanted to grow up to be an actor, but was dissuaded by family members (in favor of the much more respectable teaching/writing profession...) and how his two teen daughters want to be an opera singer and a broadway performer, respectively, and going on and on about how he supports them in these career goals. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was in 4th grade, but realized on my own that this was not a legitimate career choice. (Okay, given enough hard work, luck, and determination, but I was not that serious about it...) Like that makes him some kind of better person than his family, because he would allow his children to make ridiculous career choices. Even in the course of writing this book, they each change their minds a couple of times, and HE is the one hanging onto their more fanciful ambitious.
He could have used a better editor--we get a lot of random lists, including the career ambitions of his entire kindergarten class (he unnecessarily points out that he didn't actually remember that one on his own--he had a booklet the class made) without even the benefit of telling us what they DID become to make it interesting.
The thought that kept coming to me as I read this book was that he was going about it all wrong. You don't re-do making a mistake in your first play by waiting 40 years and then reprising your role-- you try out for another play the next year, and try to learn from the previous mistake. You don't fix not having had a stable childhood home by camping out in the guest bedroom of a house you lived in during your childhood-- you try to make the home where you raise YOUR children as stable as possible. And if my husband thinks he gets to "make up" for having missed his prom by taking the girl he would have liked to take then to a dance 30 years later, he has another thing coming!
The entire premise of this book (shaky though it is,) is that children get to take another try at any game by claiming a "do-over"; what the author forgets is the corollary-- the right of the other players to yell back, "Doesn't count!"
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Laura (new)

Laura I seriously laughed till me sides hurt. You are great! If I were rich I would pay to have you write a book. I miss ya across the street. Hope you are doing great! Laura


David I agree with your "creepy" take, Danae, especially with the younger kids.


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