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and life along the winding road

Friday, June 2, 2023

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

 Mikel Jollett's memoir, Hollywood Park, is a young boy's journey overcoming hurdles in his path and finally coming to realize his father's love and his father's wish was that Mikel would become a better man than those in his paternal family. It's at  the Hollywood Park racetrack that his father tells him he loves him and wants a better life for his son, not living one step ahead of the law.

His first memories are of living within a cult, Synanon, which began as a rehab center. The children were to become Children of the Universe and lived in an orphanage type existence. He was placed there at six months old, away from his parents who visited occasionally. What he does remember is 19 year old Bonnie who had more love for him than his own mother (Bonnie eventually became his father's partner).

Mikel's mother, who he says suffers from the deep-Russian (depression), tells him how hard everything is for her and she wanted kids so she wouldn't have to be alone and it was his job to take care of her. She takes both he and his brother, Tony, away from Synanon and they move to Oregon where they hope the cult leaders won't find them.

At  13 with his brother, Tony, in rehab and Bonnie awaiting surgery for removal of a growing tumor, Mikel has a motor cycle accident (a drug induced friend ran into him while going in the wrong direction), Mikel decides to take a different path. He joins a school track and field running team, begins taking school seriously, eventually moving to an honors class. 

In our world where people complain about being a victim, want others to pay for their upkeep, ignore our laws and want hand outs instead of hand ups, Adrienne Brodeur sums up Mike Jollett's story of overcoming the odds, living between the houses of a narcistic mother and ex-con father along with school friend druggies. He doesn't complain about his childhood, and instead uses it to fight for a better life.

Detailing a childhood defined by neglect,  poverty and uncertainty, Jollett's story serves as a potent reminder that while we cannot change the hand we're dealt, our freedom lies in what we choose to do with the cards. Hollywood Park is an illuminating and redemptive account of one man's search for meaning, family, and love.                                                                      Adienne Brodeur