The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson is a memoir that takes readers on a journey through Bryson’s childhood in 1950s America. The book follows Bryson’s alter ego, the Thunderbolt Kid, as he navigates his way through family oddities, friendships, and his own rich imagination.
The book begins with Bryson introducing his father, Bill Sr., who was a renowned sports writer for The Des Moines Register. Bryson then delves into his childhood experiences, which were shaped by the baby boomer generation.
He recounts many inventions that fascinated him, such as frozen dinners, atomic toilets, and television. He also remembers his adventures as “the Thunderbolt Kid,” an alter ego he made up for himself when he felt powerless.
Throughout the book, Bryson reflects on the dichotomy of looking forward to the future and at the same time, dreading it. He also talks about his misadventures as Billy Bryson, including his first days in school when he figured out that when the entire class was running drills to protect themselves from a bomb, he would simply read comic books instead.
At the end of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson determines that the world would be a better place if it still existed as it had in the 1950s and 1960s, but that it never will again.
What I Liked
I loved how personal and focused the book is, and how he’s able to extrapolate his experience to stand in for the experience of many Americans from that period.
It’s also hilarious and engaging. Great narrative non-fiction.
What I Did Not Like
I know it’s the point of the book – but wow did he have on some rose-tinted glasses. Now – I don’t think I would have wanted him to change the book, but there’s definitely something missing when you know more about what the adults were doing in the 1950s.