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Book By Author:  A. S. Merwin

THOSE RADIO DAYS
 
 THOSE RADIO DAYS
 
 Young Adult
 
  978-0-557-2313
 
  Four-year old Herbie Miller doesn’t believe in holding on to the past as childhood pushes forward into the fifties. Herbie’s initiated into the forbidden world of sexual knowledge years before he should be. Punishment and betrayal enter his young life, but curiosity and hope guide Herbie’s foray into learning. Herbie’s Catholic school experiences test an educator’s patience. A sudden serious illness will change his life and his father’s attitude toward him. Herbie’s family moves to a new home, where he faces a new school and no friends. Adaptability is paramount especially when he’s threatened with another new situation––a baby brother. Herbie finds consolation in new friends, some who may lead him astray. Television arrives, competing for Herbie’s loyalty to radio and there is yet another great awakening about to materialize. Santa and the Easter Bunny are not real! It’s 1956 and Herbie has to start again in his quest to find new friends and be a part of radio. High school is the defining stage for Herbie’s independence. School begins badly, but Herbie makes a fast recovery with help from his mother. Radio is on a collision course with rock-n-roll. Radio and high school are at the heart of discontent between Herbie and his father. Herbie has doubts about his ability to make the right choices until he takes a job at a radio station on weekends. Friendships and romances are tested. Graduation brings change, and life continues to complicate growing up. The sixties unwrap at fast pace, as college presents new challenges. Herbie loses his first paying job in radio then fails in an attempt in different field. To add insult to injury, Herbie is rejected when he tries to join the Army, but this seemingly dead end is where he finds solace and redemption, winning his father’s approval.
 
Date Reviewed:   

17-10-2011

 
Tagline:   

Merwin hooks you immediately with this humorous childhood jaunt through life in the 50s.

 
 

After reading the first few lines of Those Radio Days by A.S. Merwin, I knew I was hooked. I settled into my chair and became immersed in the life of a four-year old boy named Herbie Miller living in the late 40's Middle America. What gripped me immediately was how the book was written. Minimal dialogue between the characters, but a free flowing narrative style from Herbie sometimes humorously using baseball terms letting readers know what he thought of different situations such as “Runner steals second and beats the throw, safe!” and “Curve ball––strike one.” Never slowing down, the story follows young Herbie through the ups and downs of being a kid in post war society. The theme of the book quickly became clear when Herbie discovered radio; TV had not yet made its mark. Radio becomes the focus of his life even as the story goes into his teens. He is tested in the innocence of youth at that time through bad choices, peer pressure and moving from school to school. Merwin shows a fantastic snapshot of what it was like growing up in the 50s and 60s; it was the golden years, or as the book looks deeper…was it really?

I must admit I was rather shocked at how Merwin unfolded the first chapter, but after I read further, old memories of my own youth started to creep into my head. I had to admit that the life of a four year old is much more complex than we adults understand. This reflection of my own childhood kept pace with Herbie's story as he matured into his teens. I sympathized with Herbie and understood his choices made as kid, even though some were not rational. Merwin is a natural storyteller and I would highly recommend Those Radio Days. It is a reflection of growing up in a rapidly changing era and reading it made me laugh reminding me of my own youthful mistakes.

 
 



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Author:  A. S. Merwin