29 May 2009

"Wait Till Next Year" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wait Till Next Year
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Date of Publication: 21 October 1997
Cover Price: $25.00
261 pages

Another of my reading objectives for 2009 has been addressed; my mother gave me this book for Christmas in 1997 (possibly 1998).  I just never quite got round to opening it until a couple of weeks ago.  Anyway, you might recognize Doris Kearns Goodwin from either her appearances as a talking head on TV (I saw her on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart not too long ago) or as author of Team of Rivals, the acclaimed look at President Lincoln's cabinet.

In Wait Till Next Year, she revisits her own childhood in 1950s Brooklyn.  There are eight chapters, each more or less dedicated to one year of her youth.  Because of the growing nature of childhood, each year also addresses its own themes--even though the underlying theme of this memoir is her relationship to the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I rarely find myself visualizing any written work particularly clearly, and so it is a great compliment I pay to Doris Kearns Goodwin when I say that I lost myself in a vivid, nearly tangible, recreation of her childhood.

From her mother (ailing with "the heart of a seventy year old woman") to next door neighbor Elaine, from Jackie Robinson to the local Giants fan butchers who called her "Ragmop," no one is simply background for her life.  I am still in awe of how, at six years of age, she would listen to every radio broadcast of every game and keep score throughout all nine innings so she could recreate the games in their entirety for her father at night.  There are heartbreaking passages of loss; I literally teared up during the epilogue.

I came of age forty years after Kearns Goodwin in a small town outside Louisville, Kentucky and yet her vivid portrayal of so many universal themes made this one of the most accessible memoirs I have yet read.  Do not Wait Till Next Year; put this at the top of your reading queue.

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