In Riding This Electron, Hanging on for Dear Life: A Soul Searcher’s Theory of Everything, author Tom Zidik offers life advice and theories about health and the universe, interspersed with an overview of his own life.
Zidik recounts a childhood in central Pennsylvania rich in Americana— milk delivered to his doorstep, Catholic school and its intimidating nuns, the thrill of saving for a first car at 16—all while encircled by a loving home and family. When writing about more current times, he comes across as an incredibly hard worker who takes pride in making a good life for himself and his wife, despite leaving college behind. He invests well and owns property that they live on and love.
Such stories are interspersed with advice to treat people equally, theories about the universe, a whole chapter of highly speculative health advice, and a chapter with photos describing the deer that live on his property.
Zidik’s writing can ramble a bit, and some passages are muddled and confusing (“Not only the scenery changed with each day’s drive, but the people who adapt to where they live changed also”). There are also misspelled words. But it’s the seeming desire to include everything but the kitchen sink that gives the book its disjointed feel. Zidik’s stories about his youth and jobs are well crafted, and the contrast between the 1950s economy and that of today is noteworthy, but side trips to the doctor for kidney stones and theories about prescription medication and whole versus skim milk greatly bog things down.
Riding This Electron, Hanging on for Dear Life is an entertaining memoir when it centers on mid-century America and what it meant to grow up there. Had Zidik chosen to focus there and go deeper, rather than pulling so many disparate strands together, the book would be much stronger. Nonetheless, readers will find some rewards within these pages.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.