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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
When Neill was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, the kindly Mennonite lady told his mother that Neill wouldn’t survive. But he did and he lived a fascinating life full of love and humor and a zest for telling a good story, mostly stories about his life. Growing up in the small town of Elmira in southwestern Ontario in the 1950s and 1960s, Neill and his siblings experienced a varying world around them: from the simplicity of the Mennonites on one side of town to the complexity of industry on the other, including factories that produced Agent Orange for the Vietnam War. The collage of aromas that assaulted his nose on a daily basis was quite simply described in his father’s words as “off”, or more bluntly, “It stinks like a skunk, a dead rat, or a rotting fish.” Neill inherited his father’s olfactory senses and became acutely aware of the foul smells all around him, to the point that he “memorized all these stink patterns,” some of which “caused a metallic taste” in his mouth. The smell didn’t stop him; nothing did. As a kid, he was a kid, always into something. Seventy years later, he’s still a kid and always into something.
Neill McKee’s memoir, Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, tells a compelling and often humorous tale of life not all that long ago. With vivid descriptions of his childhood town (both in appearance and in smell), detailed character descriptions, and a knack for telling a good story (one that probably gets better with each re-telling), the author has woven a complex, yet simple tale of childhood, both from the eyes of a child and, later, looking back through the eyes of an adult. He explores the many wonders of his era: the Vietnam War that only affected Elmira in the act of making such a potent chemical that was damaging to all life, and the rock and roll culture which helped many survive the 1960s. There was more, too: the typical nuances of growing up from exploding hormones to chasing girls and rebelling against one’s parents and facing up to bullies. And, like many in the hippie and post-hippie generation, there was that growing up and away from home, searching for the one important thing that would define an individual: the quest to find oneself. Accentuated with photographs, both from his family and his adventures at home and abroad, this makes for a very memorable (or perhaps I should say memoir-able) read – entertaining and amusing, too. Having grown up in this same neck of the woods, a decade later, I feel the connection and enjoyed the read.