In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments.
Robin Hemley's childhood made a wedgie of his memory, leaving him sore and embarrassed for over forty years. He was the most pitiful kindergartner, the least spirited summer camper, and dateless for prom. In fact, there's nary an event from his youth that couldn't use improvement. If only he could do them all over a few decades later, with an adult's wisdom, perspective, and giant-like height...
In the spirit of cult film classics like Billy Madison and Wet Hot American Summer, in DO-OVER! Hemley reëncounters papier maché, revisits his childhood home, and finally attends the prom—bringing readers the thrill of recapturing a misspent youth and discovering what's most important: simple pleasures, second chances, and the forgotten joys of recess.
"When Hemley, a writing professor at the University of Iowa, decides that he wants to do over some of the experiences he flubbed as a child, he isn't just dreaming. The 48-year-old father of three makes a list of times and places he'd like to revisit, including kindergarten, the prom and summer camp, doggedly pursuing all the contacts and background checks necessary to 'storm the walls of childhood' as an adult. Surprisingly, the kids and teachers he meets along the way accept him in his overgrown state; some even express envy . . . Hemley is endearing, funny and more than a bit courageous . . . A big kid at heart, the author draws readers in with just the right mix of humor and tenderness." — Publishers Weekly
"Taking the concept of 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' to its most eccentric extreme, Hemley's step back in time imparts hard-earned wisdom with humility and humor." — Booklist
"Robin Hemley is on my very short list of writers I not only wish to read, not only need to read, but downright can't wait to read. Do-Over! is quintessential Hemley, full of wit and invention and brilliant language and warm humanity and when you least expect it-mid-bellylaugh, mid-bon mot-he will sneak up on you with a dazzlingly smart, deep-cutting insight into human nature. Do-Over! is an instant classic." — Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"While it is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, what makes this book so absolutely endearing is the honesty and tender, humane insight of the author, and his reluctant, hard-won willingness to forgive his former self. A screwball premise winningly pulled off, Do-Over! should charm readers everywhere." — Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body
"Do-Over! is one of the funniest, wisest, most perfectly observed books I've ever read. Robin Hemley possesses a keen insight into the all-too-human wish to rectify our past mistakes. He also knows that we are better for having made them." — Bernard Cooper, author of The Bill From My Father
"An utterly beguiling attempt to recover the past not by remembering it but by physically occupying it, or at least trying to." — David Shields, author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
"Robin Hemley may not be able to play Greensleeves on the recorder, but he does know how to write a highly entertaining book." — A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
"Robin Hemley has pulled out all the stops and managed to take that familiar wistful longing—the if-only sensation we have in regarding the past—and turned disappointment and chagrin into exhilarating time-travel. This series of reprises from childhood and youth has a charm that goes beyond a backward look, and becomes a touching mid-life memoir in which the heart of a child is soothed and liberated." — Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter
"Robin Hemley is that rare writer who moves through literary genres—nonfiction, memoir, fiction, poetry—with the ease of expertise, and all of his considerable skills are harnessed in his wonderfully entertaining new book, DO OVER. It's a book that moves with the velocity of a page-turner—by turns, comic, playful, intimate, wise. In its fresh and deeply personal way it is a book not simply about time, but about the the possibility and impossibility of time travel. It is a coming of age story—or, rather, the plural: a coming of age(s) story—told from a perspective so ingenious as to redefine the term." — Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed With Magellan
"For Hemley the journey home is the challenge of reconciling past and present lives—of undoing a lingering handful of regrets and failures from childhood and adolescence in order to find a sense of balance and belonging in the present, to somehow create one woven life. Like most of us, he doesn't fully achieve this in the book or in life, but it is remarkably entertaining and cathartic to watch him try." — The Boston Globe
"In the ever-growing range of books classified 'creative non-fiction,' Do-Over! might be considered, in part, under the subcategory 'stunt journalism.' This might not be the best way to compliment Hemley's charming, insightful and unexpected book, for there's more heft to this work than a mere gimmicky stunt ... Do-Over! is a lot more serious than it looks. Hidden away in this jolly gift of a book is a heavy center that anchors it in some deep waters ... Readers don't mind having the rug pulled out from under them if they open a book full of cheer and quirky anecdotes only to find breakdowns, as long as the story and the writing are as clear and redemptive as that in Do-Over!" — The Chicago Tribune
"Do-Over! is a must-read for the literary elite (see how fun not taking yourself so seriously can be?), parents (it's an incisive treatise on child psychology), and world leaders everywhere." — Rain Taxi