“I was happy to read Peter Hoffmeister’s memoir shortly after having read Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III. Both men began as boys who were thoughtful, introverted and reluctant to fight, but, for both, conflicted emotions about their parents drove them to transform themselves physically and mentally for self-protection—and to inflict pain on others. For Dubus it was street fighting/boxing; for Hoffmeister it was wrestling.
I dare you to open up this book anywhere and not be intrigued. Mom encouraging young Pete to smoke on the cover was enough to get me to pick it up (later, the parents would force both sons to smoke until they vomited in aversion therapy). Throughout the story, one notes that Hoffmeister often took time to read, and redemption comes eventually from a native intelligence not worn away by violence and drug abuse. Thousands of less naturally talented boys are still abusing, with no intellectual boot straps to recover. Even with three high school expulsions, Hoffmeister finds himself rising again from circumstances that would drag most people down forever . . . How often does the gift of a book—or, in this case, a stack of books—completely change a life? Blessings on Mrs. Stahlberg, Hoffmeister’s senior-year English teacher, who offers Siddhartha and The Painted Bird, among others.
Hoffmeister’s memoir is one of the most powerful I have ever read. All the way through the Acknowledgements. I took this book on a camping trip with my 10-year-old son. As I read my book and he read his, I would sometimes glance at him and think about Peter’s father, his harsh expectations, his brute physical abuse and twisted good intentions. I think that this book will make me a better father. Thanks for sharing it with us, Peter.”—Kurtis Lowe, sales rep for Book Travelers West, from a Good Reads review