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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Escape From Xanadu: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure, and Coming of Age is a non-fiction memoir written by Doc Sanborn. The author was quite literally a war baby. His father enlisted in the Merchant Marines when Sanborn was five months old. Shore leave visits were few and far between, and eventually his mother and father were divorced. His little sister and mother went to live with his mother's new love interest, but Sanborn stayed with his father's parents who raised him until he was in the third grade. Junior, Sanborn's father, came home after the war was over and also lived briefly with his parents until he found a job and an apartment where he lived with his girlfriend, Pat. Sanborn's grandparents felt it would be appropriate and good for both father and son for him to go live with Junior and Pat. Junior would be able to learn how to be a parent to his young son. It was an experiment and an experience that seemed to please no one, especially Sanborn himself who found living with that parent particularly difficult, and sometimes frightening, even in Junior's self-styled Xanadu.
Doc Sanborn's coming of age memoir, Escape From Xanadu: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure, and Coming of Age, follows that portion of his life when he lived with his father and Pat, the librarian who taught him to love books and reading. This well-written and engaging memoir broaches sensitive topics as the parent and child seem inevitably to clash, with the threat of violence ever looming over seemingly any interaction. Where the author truly shines is in his descriptions of school life: his first kiss, secret longings for a teacher, and friends to replace those he had lost when he left his grandparents' home, and his tales of the outdoors and the times he spent with his dog, Peppy, exploring the wilds around the battered cottage they lived in. Sanborn's writing excels when his subject is nature. One can see every rickety plank on the dock outside Xanadu, and visualize the author gathering mussels and oysters, and generally being a kid out in nature. I loved Sanborn's earlier memoir, Sanborn's Camp, and found Escape from Xanadu to be an equally compelling read. It's most highly recommended.