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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
If you think You Can’t Crack Me … I’m a Rubber Duck! is a funny title for Charlie Northage’s heart-breaking, self-revealing memoir, you are destined to revise your sense of humor. This is a cool book – there is no other way to say it - written so concisely that it feels like eavesdropping on someone’s daily thoughts. What saves the writing from overt criticism is the author’s own confession that he knows little about grammar, punctuation, or the actual art of writing itself. He proves this quite well. But what he offers in return is a brutal honesty and a thoroughly readable, down-to-earth telling of a complicated life. There is little room for compassion here, even for the real main character: Severe PTSD. If it were not for the author telling his own tale, thus revealing a certain self-awareness produced by age, the reader would not warm to him much at all, and certainly not from any sense of pity.
Right off the bat, in chapter one, we learn that Charlie is a hellion. He appears to note this objectively, but he never internalizes it as something bad. As a result, he basically ignores his formal education, allowing himself – as it were – to choose the school of hard knocks for his more enduring lessons. He gets more than he bargains for from this choice, and reading about his pummeled life is like getting beaten up on a relentlessly regular schedule. Charlie never seems to learn his lessons, almost continually taking precipitous actions based on sudden urges, which land him and his loved ones in precarious situations. And yet, the most redemptive and salutary element of this memoir is that he now takes full accountability for the trials of his life, and at the age of reminiscence he shows us in his writing that he does, ultimately, recognize his own responsibility for the various outcomes in his life. A complicated, depth-filled life that – contrary to the title – cracks him more than once. But he endures, and for that alone he is a man to be admired. So is this dark but marvelous book.