Lake of the Ozarks by Bill Geist
Publisher/Year: Grand Central Publishing, 2019
Before there was “tourism” and souvenir ashtrays became “kitsch,” the Lake of the Ozarks was a Shangri-la for middle-class Midwestern families on vacation, complete with man-made beaches, Hillbilly Mini Golf, and feathered rubber tomahawks.
It was there that author Bill Geist spent summers in the sixties during his school and college years, working at Arrowhead Lodge–a small resort owned by his bombastic uncle–in all areas of the operation, from cesspool attendant to bellhop.
What may have seemed like just a summer job became, upon reflection, a transformative era when a cast of eccentric, small-town characters and experiences shaped (some might suggest “slightly twisted”) Bill into the man he is today. He realized it was this time in his life that had a direct influence on his sensibilities, his humor, his writing, and ultimately a career searching the world for other such untamed creatures for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and CBS News.
In LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Emmy Award-winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist reflects on his coming-of-age in the American heartland and traces his evolution as a man and a writer. He shares laugh-out-loud anecdotes and tongue-in-cheek observations guaranteed to evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days.” Written with Geistian wit and warmth, LAKE OF THE OZARKS takes readers back to a bygone era and demonstrates how you can find inspiration in the most unexpected places.
What I thought
This book was so difficult to rate! First, there’s that dilemma on “how to rate/review” memoirs. And then there’s the fact that this book was not what I was expecting or hoping for, which is certainly not the fault of the author. I picked this one up because I have a fascination with this time period–’60s/’70s–but also with coming of age stories during this time. So, I think I was hoping for something that would give a more generalized view of the times, whereas what this turned out to be was one man’s individual tale of his summers spent at Arrowhead Lodge. Which…duh…this is his memoir, so of course it’s individualized. I dunno what I was thinking (or if my rambling even makes sense), and that isn’t the fault of the author. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book wasn’t what I was hoping it would be. But I did end up enjoying parts of it, namely Bill Geist’s humor. There’s no better way to describe his writing than to call it humorous–the guy’s funny. And honestly, this year we can use all the humor we can get. There were also moments of poignancy, and I did enjoy his reflections on how the people and places we grew up with change through the years. Overall, although not what I was expecting, this memoir was full of humor and wit, and it made for an enjoyable read.