Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Acid Test
Christopher Kimball Bigelow
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Zarahemla Books
release 2020/ ISBN 9780999347232
Nonfiction / Memoir

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A Memoir to be Remembered
The Rare Utah Memoir

Here is a reviewer, a born and raised Utahan, who learned stuff from Christopher Kimball Bigelow’s Acid Test I didn’t know about the landscape and the culture, and that is a very rare occurrence. I mean, I found errors in John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven (which, I believe, he corrected in a later edition).

Of course, there is a generation of difference between us, and we are from opposite sides of Salt Lake City’s Main Street: he is West, I am East (and anyone raised there knows this could be likened to opposite sides of the track in some localities). And we both have pioneer backgrounds (and anyone from Utah knows this means Mormon bred). I was a half-and-half and so strayed and Bigelow had mighty Mormon roots and strayed anyway. We are both Californians, too, though at different times in life.

I’m telling readers this so that you know I come to this review with biases pro and con. Here’s my nutshell-take:

1. Acid Test is a rarity in the literary world. It is a picture of Utah, its people, its religion that may be difficult to match because it is not researched but lived. You may find something to love and something to hate; you may find something you’d like to talk about (or argue), but you likely will also find plenty you didn’t know.

2. Acid Test is not a tour guide, but you’ll find it truer to places in and about Salt Lake City and its suburbs than in any reading about this place you have come across. I mean, Mueller Park Canyon and Bountiful.

3. Acid Test doesn’t try to bandage over the culture’s warts. It freely exposes many I had never encountered and some that had, in fact, been kept a secret from me.

4. Acid Test is not your usual coming-of-age story. Some might compare the story to Holden’s Catcher in the Rye, and I thought I was going to revel in Bigelow s drug-induced wisdom, too. Instead I found what Kirkus Reviews deemed embracing society mostly the same ones I found for rejecting organized religion.

5. Acid Test offers a home-grown sensibility from an honest and skilled writer. You may love it or hate it, you may be surprised by its outcome and, honestly, that may be the part you hate. Its authenticity will keep you reading. And you certainly will remember it.

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of fiction, poetry and the How To Do It Frugally series of books for writers.

Reviewed 2020