Do-Over!: In Which a Forty-Eight-Year-Old Father of Three Returns to Kindergarten, Summer Camp, the Prom, and Other Embarrassments

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Overview

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, ...

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Do-Over!: In Which a Forty-Eight-Year-Old Father of Three Returns to Kindergarten, Summer Camp, the Prom, and Other Embarrassments

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Overview

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 reencounters paper mache, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
As a kid, Robin Hemley was a failed summer camper, a kindergarten washout, irresistible live bait for bullies, and a promless wonder. Looking back at his childhood, Hemley decided that he might do it better the second time around. A refreshing do-over that will find many nostalgic takers.
David Shields
An utterly beguiling attempt to recover the past not by remembering it but by physically occupying it, or at least trying to.
author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
Bernard Cooper
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
author of The Bill From My Father
From the Publisher
"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

"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

"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 FatherBernard Cooper, author of The Bill From My Father

"While it is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, what makes this book so absolutely endearingis the honesty and tender, humaneinsight of the author,
and hisreluctant, hard-won willingness to forgive his former self.
A screwballpremise winningly pulled off, "Do-Over" should charm readers everywhere." -Phillip
Lopate,author of Portrait of My Body

"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

A.J. Jacobs - author of The Year of Living Biblically

"Robin Hemley may not be able to play Greensleeves on the recorder, but he does know how to write a highly entertaining book."
David Shields - author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
"An utterly beguiling attempt to recover the past not by remembering it but by physically occupying it, or at least trying to."
Bernard Cooper - author of The Bill From My Father
"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
Bernard Cooper
"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
author of The Bill From My Father
Publishers Weekly

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. The complex logistics of Hemley's quest-including endless e-mails and phone calls to convince others that he's legit-can be tedious, but Hemley is endearing, funny and more than a bit courageous (the night before his first day of kindergarten, he's too nervous to sleep.) As he tackles his part in the school play or sits with the popular kids at lunch, Hemley philosophically ponders the lessons of the past. While some experiences don't pan out quite the way he hopes (after crashing his car into the ACT center, he ditches the idea of a standardized test repeat), others fall serendipitously into place (a crush from high school now works as the school's alumni director and agrees to be his prom date). A big kid at heart, the author draws readers in with just the right mix of humor and tenderness. 22 b&w photos. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A 48-year-old writer chronicles his goofball quest to correct the perceived failures of his youth. Hemley (Nonfiction Writing/Univ. of Iowa; Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday, 2003, etc.) undertakes a dubious immersion-journalism project in the form of "do-overs." These attempts to repair the major emotional traumas of his childhood and adolescence involve revisiting the sites of his worst failures, from kindergarten to high school, summer camp to standardized testing. He couldn't even scrounge up a prom date. But you'd think his privileged adult existence-published author, father of three, university professor-might snuff out memories of botched grade-school plays and junior-high bullies. Hemley, however, insists that he's still bothered by these trivialities. Too bad, then, that the book's conceptual gimmickry yields little more than the occasional entertaining anecdote, the obvious fish-out-of-water comedy inherent in someone pushing 50 trying to pass for a five-year-old, and a fitfully amusing travelogue, as the author lumbers from Sewanee, Tenn., to Osaka, Japan, trying to enlist unfortunate souls from his past in his geeky time-travel fantasies. Of course, Hemley's had real traumas that hang like a mist over this revisionist endeavor: an ugly divorce, his late sister Nola's schizophrenia and his father's death at 51. A few relevant observations cut through the "gee, they sure did things differently in my day!" remarks, as when Hemley contrasts contemporary kids' structured, monitored and medicated lives with the dog-eat-dog anarchism that characterized his own youthful social experiences. But the do-over with the most potential for dramatic tension-going tothe senior prom with his high-school crush-falls flat. Far from generating epiphanies, these "renovations" merely reinforce how nice it is to be an adult.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316020602
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/11/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Hemley is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on DO-OVER!. He has published seven books, and his stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and many literary magazines and anthologies. Robin received his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop; he currently directs the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City, IA.

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Read an Excerpt

I grew up without anyone helping me along. No Echo Values in camp. No I-Care Rules in kindergarten. Positive reinforcement hadn't even been invented when I was growing up! I remember my great-uncle worrying in front of me that I was a sissy. My grandmother told me I'd get leprosy if I didn't take a bath. My mother told me girls wouldn't like me if I didn't gain weight. I remember one kid in fifth grade we called Boomer. He'd make little bombing noises throughout class. Once, he peed out the bathroom window on kids playing kickball. Another time he grabbed our teacher, Miss Cotton, and pulled her across her desk. Boomer was either being yelled at by the principal, ridiculed by the other kids, or manhandled by a teacher or two. Today, Boomer would be medicated and in therapy. Maybe me too. Back then, family, schools, and camp worked hand-in-hand to make us little arts and craft basket cases.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: My Do-Over List

Ch. 1 Alpha Friend of the Diamond Class 3

Ch. 2 Honorary Angel 30

Ch. 3 Camp Echo 60

Ch. 4 The Year of Bullies 85

Ch. 5 Frat Boy 112

Ch. 6 A Real Cool Guy 140

Ch. 7 Mystery Date 172

Ch. 8 Outcomes Assessment 220

Ch. 9 Mama's Boy 233

Ch. 10 Old Boy 255

Epilogue: Teaching Moments 305

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    Legend

    Come back...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    Thunder

    He picked up his mouse. Then he trudged back to camp.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 16, 2010

    Read this witty, enthralling book!!

    What time in your life or embarrassing experience would you like to redo? Author Robin Hemley explores this intriguing concept in his book DO-OVER! In each chapter, he shares a painful adolescent memory, why he wanted a second chance to fix it, what he learned, and how it applied to his current life. Poignant examples include kindergarten, a school play, prom, and his unfinished student exchange program in Japan. As his do-over proceeds, he makes many fascinating observations on the evolution of the experience in general. An example is how teaching methods have improved. Other compelling insights include how childhood in general has changed since the 1960's, when he was a boy.

    DO-OVER! is emotionally candid, engaging, and very thoughtfully written. I greatly admire Mr. Hemley's honesty in sharing his faults and mistakes. He describes bittersweet moments with much humor, providing many laugh-out-loud moments. There truly is uplifting wisdom for everyone in this absorbing book. It's an amazingly entertaining read and I highly recommend it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I wish I could have done that

    DO-OVER! is a book that I totally enjoyed and felt jealous of Robin Hemley. He got to relive those things in his life that were embarrassing or failed the first time around. How many of us wished that we could redo certain moments in our lives. Not only does he succeed in any of his attempts, he writes in detail explaining how he does each moment, contacting people long ago forgotten. This is quite an interesting tale of one middle aged man (could it be a midlife crisis?) It took guts to redo his life and this is one remarkable journey where not only the reader learns something, but so does the author.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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