This was a well written memoir and once again proves my point you don t necessarily have to be familiar with the person ahead of time in order to appreciate their story Mikel spent the first few years of his life in the Church of Synanon which was a cult Thankfully he and his family escaped but obviously the experience is something that stays with you and the long term effects is just one of the subjects Mikel explores in his memoir The main reason I chose to read this one is because I have this odd fascination with cults I m always curious about the reasons why people end up in a cult, what the heck goes on while they are in a cult, as well how they manage to leave The Church of Synannon in which Mikel s family were members, mandated children at 6 months old be separated from their parents and raised in the cult s School So Mikel and his older brother didn t even have much interaction with their parents until after they left the cult And while leaving the cult was the right thing to do, it didn t mean that Mikel s life was smooth sailing afterwards He was five years old when his mother took him and his brother and escaped so the book focuses mostly on the aftermath of leaving a cult although he does share his memories of his time being raised in what was essentially an orphanage type environment.I think Mikel Jollett is a talented writer and I loved how he told his story Rather than talk about his childhood from only an adult perspective, he relates his experiences of the cult and growing up after escaping in of a kid s narration style If you have read the fictional book, Room, it s something similar to that method of storytelling Mikel even as a child is pretty insightful and wise beyond his years Given this is a memoir about his life, eventually Mikel s perspective goes from young boy, to teen, and then adulthood And it truly felt like I was reading the words and thoughts of a child, and then teen, and then an adult It might sound like a simple thing to do, but I don t think most writers could have pulled it off so flawlessly There were two things that really stood out for me in this memoir I thought the topic of addiction was handled in a way in which you could really understand the devastating effects it has not just on the person who is addicted but also on loved ones And without going into too much detail, Mikel s mother was someone I found fascinating to read about and I appreciate how the dymanics between mother and son was explored in the book Definitely check this one out especially if you enjoy memoirs.Thank you to Celadon Books for sending me an advance reader s copy in exchange for an honest review I m not sure that I have the words to describe my feelings after reading Mikel Jollett s truly remarkable memoirHollywood ParkThe very first thing that caught my attention with this book was the title, as it shared a name with a place that I used to be very familiar with and it made me curious, whether it was merely a coincidence or actually a reference to what I thought it was Even after reading the summary, I still wasn t sure, as there was no mention of the inspiration for the title all I knew was that Mikel and his brother Tony were born into a commune in California that later became the notorious Church of Synanon cult and this story was about their escape as well as the aftermath, following Mikel s life as a child through adulthood It wasn t until a few chapters in, when Mikel wrote about him and his brother spending the summer months with their father Jim, who lived in Los Angeles, that I knew for sure what Hollywood Park referred to For Mikel, the famous horse racing venue was a place of fond memories, where he got to spend a lot of quality time with his beloved father a former heroin addict and ex con and also where some of the most important father son talks of his life occurred But Mikel s story went so much deeper than that from escaping Synanon at 5 years old, through a childhood living with his emotionally abusive mother in Oregon, in conditions that exacerbated an already volatile relationship with his brother, then later living with his father and step mother in California, Mikel experienced a coming of age fraught with struggles involving drug and alcohol addiction, poverty, delinquency, loneliness, neglect, and abuse the latter of which had the most impact on him going into adulthood Mikel Jollett s memoir the chronicle of his trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs resonated deeply with me on an especially personal level, to the point that I read much of the book with tears streaming down my face Growing up in Los Angeles, I actually lived in Westchester and worked near the airport up until about 10 years ago, so I was quite familiar with many of the places mentioned in the book that, at one point or another, had a profound impact on Mikel s journey Orville Wright Junior High now known as Orville Wright Middle School, this was a school my brother and I almost attended except that our parents decided later to put us in a private school instead , Westchester High the school my brother attended for 4 years, and where my mom and I would wait in our one and only car in the parking lot every day to pick him up , the Red Onion on Manchester Avenue a restaurant with great food that I remember eating at many times, which closed down decades ago , El Dorado Bowling Alley which has since changed names and also owners , Playa Del Rey a now mostly residential beachside town in Los Angeles , and of course, Hollywood Park the former racetrack turned casino that will soon be the new home of the NFL team Los Angeles Rams Hearing all these places mentioned again places where I had spent countless childhood days brought back so many memories, both good and bad The part that resonated with me the most though, was Mikel s detailed account of the devastating impact that his father s addiction and his mother s illness had on him and his brother Despite my background being very different from Mikel s, one commonality we do share outside of spending most of our childhoods in Los Angeles is that, for most of my life, I ve also had to deal with a father with an addiction not drugs, but gambling and drinking as well as a mother whom I now realize after decades trying to figure it out has the same illness as Mikel s mother For so long, I ve had many of the same warped experiences, feelings, emotions that Mikel went through, yet it s not until now that I truly understand what has been happening I am actually floored by how much clarity about my own life and my personal experiences that reading this memoir has given me.This was a heart wrenching read for me, one that elicited so many emotions, yet I m so glad I got the chance to read it Most impressive to me is the way Mikel structured his story, which he narrates first from the perspective of a young child, then a teenager, and finally, an adult By relaying his story in a way that reflects how he grew up and came to understand the world around him, Mikel Jollett gives us a raw and powerful account of his remarkable journey I know for me, this is a memoir that, for sure, I won t soon forget Received ARC from Celadon Books as part of Early Reader program. Author Mikel JollettMikel Jollett, frontman for the indie rock band Airborne Toxic Event, had a tumultuous childhood Airborne Toxic EventMikel Jollett performingJollett s parents were members of Synanon, a California cult that began as a drug rehab organization Synanon was founded in 1958, and aspired to be a place where people lived, all together, being honest and free and not taking drugs SynanonSynanon started as a rehab facility for drug addictsSynanon s mission was to change the world for the better, but it soon devolved into a dangerous, violent cult that separated families By the time Mikel was born in 1974, six month old babies were taken from their parents and put in an orphanage like school where they were raised by strangers and rarely or in some cases never saw their parents In Synanon, children were separated from their parents Mikel recalls, We had Demonstrators who were like teachers, and classes and songs and I was lucky because I had a Bonnie She would hug me every day and call me Suuuuuun and ask me what I want for a snack Mikel also had friends Cassidy, Guy, Dmitri, and Noah Mikel even got to see his parents on rare occasions, and happily remembers his dad, Jim Jollett, riding up on a motorcycle and playing with him at the beach.Mikel with his father JimMikel s older brother Tony was especially isolated at Synanon Mikel writes, Tony used to sit alone at the edge of the playground all day He didn t trust the adults and he didn t play with other kids that much Maybe it s because someone did bad things to him..The kids would get hit really hard or locked in a closet and there was no mom or dad to tell because they lived somewhere else and you couldn t even remember their faces When Mikel was five and Tony was seven, their mother Gerry staged a nighttime rescue and fled from the cult, a risky move that could result in beatings and even murder The Jolletts managed to escape, however, and Mikel and Tony finally got to meet their maternal Grandma and Grandpa in San Jose, as well as aunts, uncles, and cousins an extended family that bewildered Mikel, who couldn t imagine having relatives.Mikel and Tony s father Jim left Synanon as well, but moved in with another woman Mikel with his father JimMikel and Tony with their father JimMikel s mom was angry and hurt by her husband s desertion, and longed for a man to take care of her Thus, when the family moved to Berkeley, a former cult member named Phil joined them Phil was almost a father figure to the boys until two Synanon thugs caught up with him Mikel, who saw what happened, remembers, The men have something like masks the color of skin that push their noses flat against their faces Even in the masks you can tell they both have shaved heads, which means they re from Synanon The goons beat Phil to a pulp with skinny black clubs , then asked a group of gawking children, Do any of you know where Tony and Mikel are Luckily the kids didn t answer, and the Jollett family fled to Salem, Oregon, where Mikel s mom thought they d be safe.When Synanon became a cult, members had to shave their headsLife in Oregon was hard Gerry got involved with one man after another, all of them addicts of some kind Thus, though the boyfriends might be kind and even avuncular to Tony and Mikel, they inevitably took off or died after a while The family was also desperately poor Mom worked as a counselor for ex convict drug addicts, but money was scarce and the Jolletts wore thrift store clothes and raised rabbits for food For a long time the family ate rabbits most nights Mikel notes, Mom makes baked rabbit and lemon rabbit She makes stir fry rabbit with peppers and onions and rabbit surprise , which is leftover baked rabbit that has been cut up and put into a casserole dish Mikel relates an amusing but stomach churning story about Mom serving the same increasingly gluey rabbit stew four days in a row.until it was a grayish brown mass in the center of the pot Baked rabbitRabbit stewBesides being deprived of material things, Mikel and Tony got no emotional support from their mother, who suffered from depression and other psychological maladies Gerry even seemed to inhabit an alternate reality When Mikel told his mother I m scared of the Synanon men, Mom , she would say No you re not You re happy because you re with your mother now When Mikel told his mother he was having nightmares about Phil s pummeling, she d insist, You re fine You weren t even there Then Gerry would lament, This has been really hard on me Mom s denial of Mikel s feelings, and constant deflection to HER feelings, wasn t a one off but went on for years Mikel s concerns were dismissed and he was expected to take care of his mother When Mom was sad or crying, Mikel would lean against her and say It s okay, Mom One day at a time and other phrases he picked up from AA and Alanon The Jolletts attended numerous 12 step meetings and AA family campouts because addiction is a family problem The Jolletts attended many AA meetingsTony, who was lonely and damaged than Mikel, had an even harder time than his brother Tony was constantly angry, compulsively acted out, and bullied Mikel relentlessly Eventually Tony, and then Mikel, moved to Los Angeles to live with their father, who was by then cohabiting with Bonnie Mikel s affectionate caretaker from Synanon The boys would return to Oregon during summer breaks, and Mikel s visits with Mom were always difficult for him Gerry would continuously lament her situation and make Mikel feel guilty for deserting his mother Even though Dad was a former drug addict, a onetime criminal, and an ex convict, he and Bonnie were the saviors that gave the boys a stable loving home In addition, Bonnie s extended Jewish family treated the boys like beloved mishpucha Nevertheless, as pre teens and teens, Tony and Mikel constantly snuck out, drank, partied, used drugs, and got into trouble Both boys also had problems sustaining relationships with girls because of their abandonment issues from childhood.Despite misbehaving and skiving off school, Mikel was a gifted student who ran track, finished high school, and eventually graduated from Stanford University Mikel had been obsessed with music since he was a youth, and took it up professionally as an adult writing articles about concerts, interviewing rock stars, and finally becoming a singer songwriter with his own band Everything Mikel did was made difficult by the emotional and psychological damage he d experienced as a child Mikel exhaustively maybe a bit too exhaustively documents his constant disorientation the ongoing difficulties with his mother and the PTSD like symptoms he experienced for decades.Mikel discusses many things about himself and his life, including his round Dutch cheeks and large childhood overbite his Dad teaching him to beat up a school bully his Dad taking him to Hollywood Park to bet on the horse races Tony s Goth phase and drug addiction the illnesses and deaths of various family members and much He also recalls happy times with friends, and the wonderful relatives that supported him unconditionally Mikel s brother Tony JollettMikel with his father and brotherIn the end, Mikel required extensive therapy to become a whole, healthy person, and it s gratifying to see that with great effort a seriously damaged child can become a successful adult The book tackles serious subjects, but does contain some humor For instance, Mom talked so much about Thatasshole Reagan that Mikel was shocked to learn the presidential candidate s real name was Ronald Ronald Reagan aka Thatasshole Reagan And Grandma Juliette Bonnie s mom didn t care if Mikel heard dirty jokes He recalls, If someone says, Mom, where is the fuckin ice I ve been looking all over for it , she puts her hands over my ears and says Don t you ever say the word ice in front of my grandson This is a well written poignant memoir that s ultimately optimistic about healing, redemption, and love Highly recommended.Thank you to Celadon Books and Mikel Jollett for a copy of the book and the View Master with pictures You can follow my reviews at Most memoirs are the story of someone overcoming adversity of some sort This memoir is not an exception What is exceptional is the writing It s visceral and affecting Jollett begins his story writing much like a child but not annoyingly so He seamlessly moves into his teen aged, young adult and adult years without missing a beat For the first five years of his life, Jollett was raised within the confines of the Synanon cult taken away from his parents at eighteen months old His mother flees from the cult with her two sons when he is five years old Unfortunately, his mother is unable to focus on anything other than herself which leads to all sorts of abuses both by her and of himself His ex con, formerly alcoholic father, in much better shape than his mother, provides some stability although he has issues of his own This is not a story of growing up in a cult Moving between his mother s home in Oregon and his father s home in California, this is a lifetime spent battling for a sense of self, finding one s voice and learning how to love and be loved. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of this author or his music That didn t stop me from being absolutely captivated by his story Often, artists from another genre are unable to communicate as well in a book, but Jollett is a magnificent writer He is able to convey the deep pain he felt during his childhood that carried into life as an adult His introspection is so very real, and although this is his story, the emotions he conveys are universal and I found myself nodding in agreement with his words many times I highly recommend this memoir.I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from celadonreads All opinions are my own. This was a very well written memoir, just wonderful and kept my interest from beginning to end It s yet another one that I read at one go It tells the story of a family s spending their early years in the unusual environment of the cultish group Church of Synanon, affected their later years The group started out as a drug rehab and the family went there so the father could get off heroin Both author Mikel Jollett and his brother were put into what was called The School, but it was basically an orphanage where a group of women cared for the children The parents were sent off to do various other jobs in the organization, and were only occasionally allowed to visit the children This started from the age of 6 months, and went on until Mikel was like 5, and his older brother was 7 or so and greatly affected Their parents split when the father took up with another woman in the group, and they eventually divorced They had both became disillusioned with the leader of Synanon and escaped from it The mother took the boys to Oregon.This is such a good memoir, I hope it gets a lot of reads There is so much after this beginning, but I want you to read it for yourself I do highly recommend this book I look forward to checking out some of his other writing now, and may as well sample some of his band s music as well while I m at it I m on another lucky streak again with my ARC s Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Mikel Jollet, and Celadon. Fair warning I received a free ARC of this book from the fine folks at Celadon Books I ve forgotten exactly what I did to get onto their advance reader list, but details are probably listed somewhere on their website HollywoodParkMemoir, CeladonReads, partnerI knew absolutely nothing going into this Never heard of Mikel Jollett or his band, the Airborne Toxic Event, before Hadn t read any advance descriptions of the book Nothing It just showed up on my doorstep one day Boom.After reading it, my first thought was, Wow My second was to wonder just how it is that I ve never heard of this man before I m definitely curious about the band now Note to friends and family See I really haven t heard of EVERY band out there No one has It s impossible to keep track of them all Jollett was one of many young children caught up in the infamous Synanon cult along with their parents After escaping, he and his brother and mother went into hiding, living in poverty for many years It s the story of his life, from his earliest memories up to the present day.What makes the book such a joy and a delight is the writing Jollett has a real gift for putting you in the moment and conveying emotion I rarely get so into a book that I m on the verge of tears, but this book was an exception I didn t just read it I felt it Raw nerves and emotions sharp as broken glass As with any life, there are ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs, moments of pain and of shocking beauty, intervals of frantic activity, and stretches of boredom Some scenes will thrill you with the shock of recognition, while others will be completely new to your experience But, thanks to this book, you get to know what it s like to live through them all.Honestly, one of the best memoirs I ve ever read Highly recommended An unflinchingly honest memoir about how the first few years of a child s life will effect his adulthood Jollet and his brother were raised in, essentially, an orphanage that was part of a cult Taken out as young children, by their narcissistic mother, and hiding from the cult, the two had tumultuous childhoods before moving in with their father, a former drug addict and ex convict They each struggled in their own way and he manages to analyze his life with very little judgment or condemnation What especially came through was his love for his father, stepmother, brother and his extended family and how they supported him over the years I enjoyed Jollet s self reflections as well as the effective change in voice as he grew His musical influences were fascinating to me and helped explain why I like his music.I received an arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own. Chosen As A Most Anticipated Book Of By O, The Oprah Magazine Hollywood Park Is A Remarkable Memoir Of A Tumultuous Life Mikel Jollett Was Born Into One Of The Country S Most Infamous Cults, And Subjected To A Childhood Filled With Poverty, Addiction, And Emotional Abuse Yet, Ultimately, His Is A Story Of Fierce Love And Family Loyalty Told In A Raw, Poetic Voice That Signals The Emergence Of A Uniquely Gifted Writer We Were Never Young We Were Just Too Afraid Of Ourselves No One Told Us Who We Were Or What We Were Or Where All Our Parents Went They Would Arrive Like Ghosts, Visiting Us For A Morning, An Afternoon They Would Sit With Us Or Walk Around The Grounds, To Laugh Or Cry Or Toss Us In The Air While We Screamed Then They D Disappear Again, For Weeks, For Months, For Years, Leaving Us Alone With Our Memories And Dreams, Our Questions And Confusion So Begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett S Remarkable Memoir His Story Opens In An Experimental Commune In California, Which Later Morphed Into The Church Of Synanon, One Of The Country S Most Infamous And Dangerous Cults Per The Leader S Mandate, All Children, Including Jollett And His Older Brother, Were Separated From Their Parents When They Were Six Months Old, And Handed Over To The Cult S School After Spending Years In What Was Essentially An Orphanage, Mikel Escaped The Cult One Morning With His Mother And Older Brother But In Many Ways, Life Outside Synanon Was Even Harder And ErraticIn His Raw, Poetic And Powerful Voice, Jollett Portrays A Childhood Filled With Abject Poverty, Trauma, Emotional Abuse, Delinquency And The Lure Of Drugs And Alcohol Raised By A Clinically Depressed Mother, Tormented By His Angry Older Brother, Subjected To The Unpredictability Of Troubled Step Fathers And Longing For Contact With His Father, A Former Heroin Addict And Ex Con, Jollett Slowly, Often Painfully, Builds A Life That Leads Him To Stanford University And, Eventually, To Finding His Voice As A Writer And Musician Hollywood Park Is Told At First Through The Limited Perspective Of A Child, And Then Broadens As Jollett Begins To Understand The World Around Him Although Mikel Jollett S Story Is Filled With Heartbreak, It Is Ultimately An Unforgettable Portrayal Of Love At Its Fiercest And Most Loyal A Story Of Fierce Love And Family Loyalty This Moving And Profound Memoir Is For Anyone Who Loves A Good Redemption Story Good Morning America, Books We Re Excited For In Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.Musician Mikel Jollett didn t have an easy childhood In his upcoming memoir, titled Hollywood Park, he tells his story It s a moving exposition of many topics, from cults to chronic depression, addiction, and the power of family to both hurt and heal Jollett s writing seems honest to a fault, while delicately balancing the book s overall mood.When he was just six months old, his parents were members of a cult that separated kids from parents In essence, he was raised in a setting similar to an orphanage When his mom left the cult and scooped Jollett and his older brother up, the situation only improved marginally She and the kids lived in and out of poverty, with a revolving door of men in her life They raised rabbits for food, shopped at Goodwill, and Jollett was shoehorned into a role as her protector and confessor Not much of the situation was appropriate for a kid not even 10 years old.Soon after, Jollett and his older brother move to the Los Angeles area to live with their dad and soon to be stepmom The difference between households is stark And, though the L.A family situation isn t perfect, it s better In that home, Jollett gets involved deeply in alcohol in drugs He and his dad connect over bets and horse racing But he also ends up diving into his high school studies and going to Stanford University.I won t tell you the rest of the story, but his path to success as the front man in an L.A based indie rock band, Airborne Toxic Event, is a unique and compelling story.My conclusionsThis book is a slow burn The intensity of each story and situation drew me in and wouldn t let go Jollett emits both sadness and strength, even as a small kid And he s also deeply vulnerable This is an author willing to flay open his heart and let us look at each moment of weakness and pain Doing so only made me hope for his ability to beat back his demons and rise above.It s impossible not to care about this man revisiting his childhood and teen years As Jollett describes people, events, and his own feelings, I wanted to transport the boy away from the difficulties But dealing with everything has made him who his is today.I appreciated Jollett s honest depiction of mental health and addiction crises He doesn t glorify either situation, instead showing both the ups and the downs I give him a lot of credit for discussing his process in talk therapy as well.If you like an emotional coming of age memoir, this is a solid choice Watch for it in May of 2020.Pair with Barbarian Days by William Finnegan for a different California childhood Or Not My Father s Son by Alan Cumming for a difficult childhood transcended by performing.AcknowledgementsMany thanks to Celadon Books and the author for the opportunity to read an advanced reader s copy in exchange for this honest review.