Review: This is Only a Test

This is Only a Test
This is Only a Test by B.J. Hollars
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Is Only A Test
By B.J. Hollars

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

Eau Claire English Professor (Garrison Keillor must love this man) B.J. Hollars has put together a collection of essays that will sizzle your brain, make you really fear those old refrigerators lurking in basements everywhere and wonder about stuff like tornadoes and nuclear bombs and ultrasounds.
Yet honestly, it’s the story about Bobby Watson that has stuck with me. That I carry around in my head like a bee that won’t land, won’t sting, just keeps buzzing around.
“Nobody knows what Bobby thought as that fridge bobbed twice in the lake. We can imagine, of course. How the water wiggled through the seams like eels. And how it began filling that fridge within seconds, drenching Bobby’s shoes, Bobby’s socks, Bobby’s shorts. Meanwhile, on the other side of that refrigerator door, the maintenance man wiped his hands on his sleeves and headed toward the barn. There was a lawnmower in need of tuning…”
Author Hollars makes no beans about his goal in writing these essays, he rips into his subjects with bent head and I know his keyboard smokes now and again. Maybe a puff shoots out his ears when he’s really rolling along with facts and figures lined up and ready to blast off onto the page and into your head. Though small in stature, his delivery is huge and open and honest, filled to the brim with a fascination for life. Life makes him squirm.
This type of collection is best served live. Honestly. So, here’s more of author Hollar’s word-magic:
“So, what is it, I ask. He says that’s a little less clear. When I ask what to make of the continual low-grade fever, he reminds me that temperatures fluctuate, that some children just run warm. The easiest fix, we’re told, is simply to lay off the thermometer for a while. My jaw drops, though I soon admit this seems like sound advice…Of all my parental trespasses, the one I’ll never forget is how I place my faith in numbers and not our son. How many afternoons has he hugged pylons in the stream to assure me he was fine? And how many times had I ignored him? Why was it easier for me to trust a beep and a screen than the person I loved most?”
Not being a parent myself, I can only imagine what goes through the fried brain of an exhausted parental unit. Yet I did train two parents along my life-journey and have heard the stories, seen the pictures and—heard the stories. Some, like the underwear one, many times. Many.
The stories.
It’s what brings us together, what gathers us and astounds, reminds us to look around, take a hand, offer one. Life is right here and it’s all that counts. This is not a test people.

• You will love this book
• What are you waiting for?
• Go!

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