Do-Over

Subtitled In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments, this is essentially the diary of a middle-aged professor in the throes of a mid-life crisis: about to become a father for the fourth time, Robin Hemley copes by replicating difficult childhood and young-adult experiences, hoping for a better outcome the second time around. He repeats kindergarten and sixth grade; performs in a Christmas play; re-enrolls in summer camp; renews his honorary membership in a fraternity; revisits the prom; and reconnects with his Japanese exchange student friend.

Although most of the tales are saccharine and reminiscent of former Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, the introduction of Emily Jean, a bright and talented orphan under the care of Hemley’s former English teacher, provides a touching parallel to his own difficult youth. However, her story is one of just a handful of bright spots in 316 pages of self-absorption, as few mothers of similar professional achievement could have scored the time and book advance money to engage in such a egocentric adventure.

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