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Hollywood Park: A Memoir Bets On...

Hollywood Park: A Memoir

June 2020

HOLLYWOOD PARK by Mikel Jollett is a brilliant memoir, with a unique storytelling structure that enhances the read.

As a young child, Mikel lived in what started as a commune in California that later devolved into a cult called the Church of Synanon. I confess to being riveted to the behavior that happens in a group like this, but I knew little about Synanon as I started reading.

The book opens with writing in a childlike voice as Mikel describes what surrounds him, and while he looks in wonder, we look in horror as we know that life in the cult is not a typical child’s world. After his mother takes him from the kids-only camp to bring them to a better life, he rapidly sees how sheltered and dysfunctional his life has been. His dad is a recovering addict, who has been absent for his early years; his mother is clinically depressed, hopelessly narcissistic and hugely lost. He and his older brother trip, stumble and fend for themselves for most of their early years. And then Mikel pulls himself up and points his life in a new direction, later graduating from Stanford.

So much love and so much dysfunction infuse the story. Mikel rose above a lot, but still has such tenderness for what has happened along the way.

Mikel and his father have a bond, a truly special relationship. His father knows the mistakes the men in the family have made, and he sees that Mikel has something in him to rise up to be someone special.

The writing is fabulous; it's starkly raw, while at the same time polished and compelling. It changes tone in four parts as Mikel ages, and that brings a whole new dimension to the reading experience.

Hollywood Park, for those who do not recognize it, was the thoroughbred horse track in Inglewood, California, that Mikel visited often with his dad. It’s not there anymore, but the images of it that Mikel shares with us will make it come alive for you.

Mikel is the frontman for an indie band called The Airborne Toxic Event, and he has recorded a companion album, Hollywood Park. I think it’s the first time that I have heard of an author doing this. It enhances the read. The audiobook is narrated by Mikel, and it includes snippets of the music, making it a very unique listening experience.

Book groups have a lot to chat about with this book. I saw parallels to EDUCATED as I read it.

Hollywood Park: A Memoir
by Mikel Jollett

  • Publication Date: May 26, 2020
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Celadon Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250621569
  • ISBN-13: 9781250621566