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Reviewed by Marnie Wilson for Readers' Favorite
Boom Baby Boom, A Baby Boomer’s Tales of Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Recovery by Robert McClellan is, as the title implies, a collection of intimate stories by an American born during the baby boom generation. As the author states in the Interview section at the back of the book: “...for whatever reason, I have been gifted with a remarkably interesting life. I have an inner drive to tell stories and share experiences with people.” This book is a no-holds-barred peek into capsules of history from a man’s life as he recounts, with no affectations, some of the fortunate, the unfortunate, the ugly, the sad, and the triumphant tales from his life thus far. Some of the topics and time periods touched on in this book include: 1960s-era Catholic School; President Kennedy’s assassination; the War in Vietnam; U.S. Military - to serve or not to serve; Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll; Hippies; Turning On and Dropping Out; AA Meetings; Recovery from Addiction; Vietnam Veterans failed by our American Government and People; Multiple Divorces; and 9/11.
This collection of essays is exactly what I would envision and hope for coming from a man born into the latter part of the American baby boom generation. While there is so much we already know about the time period that Robert McClellan lived through, he shares intriguing insights about his personal behavior, morals - or lack thereof - failures and accomplishments in an unassuming, transparent and sometimes self deprecating tone. He spins yarns about living through these annals of time, drilling down to the tender core of his heart in a way we rarely get to hear about from other male writers. Although there are any number of well-known, prolific, and all-too-often egomaniacal, blustering male writers who hail from the same era, Robert McClellan offers a fresh, new and unpretentious voice in American publishing, breaking above much of the self-important noise of too many baby boom authors.
Robert McClellan writes beautifully, even as he changes his tone from essay to essay. At times he writes with extreme brevity. Other essays weave tangled, lengthy tales. Every once in a while, his article is laced with profanity. But now and again he waxes poetic and elegant. It is all very real, and it works together to engage the reader. Before his rugged, red-haired Scottish father passed away, he gave Robert three important pieces of advice. One of these involved the appreciation of written words and the stories they tell. In spite of growing up in a blue-collar area of Philadelphia, surrounded primarily by Irish immigrant families, Mr. McClellan discovered he descends from a long line of Scottish story tellers. He says he can feel the ancestral leaning in his DNA, and based on his ability to write so well, I believe him.
One of the most captivating stories Robert McClellan tells is about the time his father died. Robert was a young man, alone in his room, when he experienced a tangible, ethereal, and yet incomprehensible connection with his dying father. It is a fascinating story, made palpable to the reader by his gifted way with words.
Mr. McClellan shares his version of events on one of the saddest days in American history, 9-11-2001. He was in Montana at the time, far out in a rural area. He learned of the horrors unfolding in New York while sitting in a tiny town’s one and only gas-station-cum-rumor mill, surrounded only by a few leathery old-timers far removed from any big city. I’ve heard many, many recountings of that day by people from all over the world. Robert McClellan provides the most outstanding and heart-wrenching accounts I’ve ever heard from anyone who didn’t happen to be in New York, like I was, on that terrible day. It is a passage worthy of any time capsule of American history.
I loved everything about this book, except that I found it too brief. Fortunately Mr. McClellan has indicated he is already working on the next installation, and I look forward to it.