CIRCA 1957, 2nd Edition

By Chuck Klein
Star Rating: 4 out of 5

With this second edition, Chuck Klein offers up an expanded tale of cars, sex, and being a teenager in the 1950s. Full of slang, songs, and adventures, //CIRCA 1957// is a fast-paced, rollicking story that is sometimes shocking, sometimes heartwarming, and never, ever boring.

As a somewhat fictionalized account of growing up in the Midwest during a time when hot rodding and rock & roll were the most, this novel follows teenager Paul Auer as he gets and rebuilds his first car, falls in and out of love, graduates high school, and gets into more than his share of trouble. Paul’s story feels real and makes the reader root for the protagonist. Circa 1957 front 2ndThough Paul is not the most sympathetic character (he tends to be selfish and rash), it is clear that he has a good heart. There are several points in the story where his future hangs in the balance, and these moments are tense and unsettling. The concern for Paul that these parts create is evidence of a strong character and solid writing. The fact that Paul is both frustrating and endearing is a testament to Klein’s skill.

My favorite thing about this book is how fully it immerses you in the world of the 1950s. The slang, the cultural attitudes, the lifestyle – it’s all bursting from the page with such complexity and richness that Auer’s entire world comes alive. Even the parts of the story that I dislike (the frequent discussions of cars and the prevalent disrespect for women) add to the picture of an era that, while only several decades removed from the present day, is completely different. As someone who did not live through the ‘50s, nothing has made that time in American history more real for me than Paul’s story.

This book is not for the overly sensitive, as it features an accurate look at teenagers (and thus an awful lot of swear words and awkward sexual encounters), but it is perfect for anyone who wants one man’s honest recollection of adolescent life in 1950s Middle America. Focusing on kids who look forward to nothing so much as the next thrill and fear nothing but boredom, //CIRCA 1957// is one exciting ride.

Ross Rojek

8 Aug 2012

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