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Far From the Trees: The Troubled Sons of an American Neighborhood

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1432737399
ISBN-10: 1432737392
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards!

"A life story steeped in all things American...an unforgettable read cover to cover." --The Midwest Book Review

Review

"Far From the Trees contains a potent message. This literary debut reveals promise that will lead to more in the future. Miracles can happen. This book is living proof."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Outskirts Press (December 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1432737392
  • ISBN-13: 978-1432737399
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,168,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An older brother with a legendary reputation casts a long shadow over his little brother, Mike. Any American citizen growing up in the 60's and 70's will be able to recount stories similar to Wellman's. Raised in an idyllic neighborhood in the tree-lined streets of Des Moines, Iowa, Mike's tales of youthful antics and abuses parallel those in communities across the country. Easy access to alcohol and drugs pushed an intelligent, sensitive All-American boy from neighborhood ball games to quarterbacking to falling on his face in a short number of blissful/tragic years. Facing the loss of many of his youthful friends to death, illness and addiction has brought him to a new appreciation and love of life, family and community. There are some great laughs and bleak moments in this book. The reader is faced with many new questions about how, as a generation, we slipped into a dangerous abyss without our parents knowing what was happening to us. There is great hope in recovery.
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Format: Paperback
This wonderful memoir follows the life of Michael Wellman, his siblings, and other children of four neighboring families as they grow up in a midwestern city beginning in the 1950s. It is partly a fond and funny look back at the small things that loomed large in their childhoods, from Superman to rough-and-tumble neighborhood games to Beatles haircuts, and partly a harrowing tale of substance abuse and addiction, as the kids grow up amid the turmoil and cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s.

Wellman writes in an engaging, intimate, conversational way that is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny ("I used to wonder what Superman did about BMs, eventually surmising that they were Clark Kent's responsibility") and sometimes beautifully reverent, as when writing of his much-loved father, "On Sunday mornings he'd squat, facing me, to knot my tie, toothpasty gusts wafting over me like the breath of God. He tied good knots. I believed in him."

Wellman's honest and revealing story of the progression of his own alcoholism and drug abuse, of the impact of the cultural phenomenon of substance abuse on his small neighborhood, and of his eventual recovery and grateful return to "living memorably again" make for a compelling and thought-provoking read. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down.
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Format: Paperback
This story could have described neighborhoods all over America in the 60s. Kids were left to run their own games and rule the great outdoors. Mom was home and Dad was bringing home the bacon. But beneath this Norman Rockwell existence things went terribly wrong. Millions of us experienced similar events, but Wellman has a unique ability to verbalize our emotions. He makes you laugh outloud. And he dares to discuss the elephants that sat in living rooms all over the country. Well done!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mike Wellman's book is an eye-opening look at what went on behind the facade of white-bread suburban American as the baby boomers grew to adulthood. A suddenly affluent country was swamped with children of WWII service men and women and, despite a desire to paint the '50s and early '60s as a "Leave It To Beaver" land of white picket fences and family harmony, what went on inside the front doors and in the back yards did not always fit conveniently onto a Norman Rockwell canvas. The story of a gifted child growing up in a laissez-faire environment is often painful as he deals with inner demons, temptations inherent in the social system of the time and an older brother who had his own problems and too often took them out on the author, without having any person to whom he could turn for the consistent guidance or mentoring he needed. The self-destructive behavior that evolves is, thank goodness, never serious enough to kill him off, or cripple him, as happened to a number of his friends. Yet, reading of the pain inflicted on himself and others from his substance abuse, I saw the history of his, and my, generation laid wide open. Fortunately, Mr. Wellman was able to recognize what he was doing to himself, and with the help of his wife and some friends, stopped his own destruction. The book is the fortuitous result.

I happened upon this book because of an article in a newsletter and ordered it. When it came I started reading it to see if I'd like it. I got very little done for the next day. I read it nearly without stopping. While set in Des Moines, Iowa, it could have been anywhere in the country during the '50s, '60s and '70s. The book hit home. I hope Mr. Wellman writes more.
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Format: Paperback
I read a lot. I never write reviews. In this case, I must. Being roughly the same age as Wellman and growing up in the same city, I was suddenly reliving my own youth; the traumas, the victories, the cacophony of the times and, yes, the freedom. I was there, but I never heard it expressed so well. Almost like the voiceover for a completely engaging film (think "A Christmas Story"), Wellman delivers a narrative that makes you feel like you're both seeing and feeling the experiences of his life, as well as observing the boys from Kingman and their families as time funnels them to now. There must be hope for those of us who lived through those crazy times. Wellman made it.
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