September 2, 2008

Review: Castaway Kid, by R. B. Mitchell

I quote:
Abandoned by his parents when he was just three years old, Rob Mitchell began his journey as one of the last "lifers" in an American orphanage. As Rob's loneliness and rage grew, his hope shrank. Would he ever find a real family or a place to call home?

Heartbreaking, heartwarming, and ultimately triumphant, this true story shows how, with faith, every person can leave the past behind and forget healthier, happier relationships.

Castaway Kid, by Rob Mitchell (or r. b. mitchell, as the cover styles him) is a competently written and interesting account of his own life, particularly focusing on his early years in an orphanage in Princeton, Illinois. Robbie eventually triumphs, as pointed out above, seeing his way through to a college education, a relationship with God, and a loving family of his own. It's a nice, redemptive story, more so because it's non-fiction (more on this below).

The writing is what I would call "conversational" -- half compelling, and half annoying. Mitchell is drawn at times to melodrama and florid metaphor, so:
And in that moment, the lion of my anger shredded the lamb of my sympathy. (p. 102)

I was clueless to the dangers of such a journey. And the only one who could take it was . . . me. (p. 177)

Trying to understand mother was like descending into a Salvador Dali painting shrouded in a Kafkaesque nightmare. (p. 193).

He does get points for "Kafkaesque," though. That is an excellent word.

What I actually found more interesting than the story itself is the lengths to which the author has gone to prove the verity of his tale. We all remember the fallout over A Million Little Pieces, when a book billed as a memoir was found out to be -- shock -- not entirely truthful in its account. Mitchell is conscious of this and addresses it directly; in the preface he offers the address of his website, a million little proofs,* where he's compiled evidence of his early life. There are PDF documents related to his stay in the orphanage, to his mother and father's mental states, and even his grandmother's journal. There are also recorded interviews with such adults who worked with him at the home, and were living and able to be reached for comment. I think it's fascinating both that he's been able to track down all these files and documents, and that he's made them freely available.

It makes me wonder how much of my life I'd be able to prove.

Castaway Kid is not stellar literature, but it is decently written and -- on the whole -- uplifting.

*Is the title coincidental, given the James Frey debacle? You tell me.

1 comment:

Author of Castaway Kid said...

Thank you for your review of Castaway Kid.

I am glad you liked the word, “Kafkaesque”. IF I owe a quote to someone for that, I am happy to give it, but it is a word that always seemed to describe part of my strange childhood journey towards hope.

Hope is being found as evidenced by the emotionally powerful emails shared by youth and adults of all races from around the world on the book website: www.castawaykid.com.

In Hope,

r.b. mitchell