It’s day four of winter break and I have finished the first book I have been able to read for fun since I started college again in August. My choice was simple, My Family and Other Hazards by June Melby. “Simple?” you may ask, not knowing that I have three large bookshelves worth of books I have not read in my bedroom and a three whole libraries full of books within a ten-mile radius of my house. Yes, it was simple.
In October, I attended the Iowa City Book Festival for the first time ever (if you have not gone I would highly recommend it), where I listened to several authors read out of their novels, short story collections, and poetry collection. While there I was able to listen to June Melby read from her memoir about growing up with a miniature golf course in her backyard in Wisconsin, the business her family ran during the summer when her parents were not teaching in Decorah, Iowa (only a thirty minute drive from my own house).
I had previously seen this book in a magazine, and found the idea fascinating. When sharing the concept of the book with my mother and grandmother, stories arose about a nine whole golf course my father and his seven siblings built around the farm. Little had I known there was a golf course in my grandmother’s back yard, and so many stories to accompany it. This is why I knew I had to see her read, we had something in common, or close to it anyway.
It turns out she was not a boring reader, you know the type that just read straight from the book, don’t look up, don’t interact with the audience. No June Melby told stories that were not in her book, joked about the ones that were, and interacted with the audience and made me feel as if I was apart of her ongoing story. When I went to get my book signed (because who doesn’t love to brag about that), she found it exciting that her story could lead to the stories I was told about the golf course on my grandmother’s farm. She left the dedication, “to Marissa, who discovered her own family had a mini golf too! So awesome. Cheers! June Melby.”
This is why I knew this had to be the first book I read when I got home for break. As I sit here on my couch, just finished with the memoir, I can’t help but think of my own life. She just did a great job of making it connect to anyone, especially me, the middle child growing up in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed her arrangement, a chapter for each of the holes and a different way for telling them based on what the hole meant to her, for example a chapter on Hole #2 The Castle was written as a fairy tale about her parents and how they met.
There were a few things that bothered me, mostly how she explicitly told what each hole meant instead of telling the story and letting the reader figure it out, “And that is why hole #5, The Horse, and this chapter are about History” (pg. 87). Each chapter has a similar line clearly stating what the reader should get out of the chapter and the hole, not much left up for interpretation. However, overall, I really enjoyed this memoir and found it to be a heart-warming, nostalgic way to start off the holiday season.
by Marissa Bouska