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Unboxing Raymond by Len Boswell
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Unboxing Raymond (edition 2022)

by Len Boswell (Author)

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1181,501,641 (4.21)None
The discovery of his father Raymond's mysterious "treasure box" forces an award-winning writer to reexamine their contentious relationship. As he opens the box and begins taking items out one by one-taking you on a treasure hunt-he is overwhelmed by memories, many funny, some poignant or sad, and a few that may send shivers up your spine. It is in those curiosities that Raymond will be revealed, piece by piece, memory by memory. Hopes, dreams, warts and all. In the end, a different unexpected father emerges. By the time the treasures are all laid out, Raymond will have earned some measure of redemption, and you will have experienced not just the life of a self-employed upholsterer, pigeon fancier, and believer in ghosts and angels, but a glimpse of times long gone, when horses and streetcars ruled Washington, D.C., and Raymond ran barefoot through its streets. You will also discover, as the author did, that when you put people in boxes, there's always room for two. So unboxing one, unboxes the other-with surprising results.… (more)
Member:llarsson7
Title:Unboxing Raymond
Authors:Len Boswell (Author)
Info:Black Rose Writing (2022), 168 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Unboxing Raymond by Len Boswell

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Unboxing Raymond by Len Boswell is a memoir of the author as much as it is a biography of his father, and it works very well.

Using the box of treasures as the central device we learn about Raymond in much the same way we remember our own deceased friends and family: through memories. Even when an item in the box was unknown to Boswell it still triggered a memory. In fact, just like one might do when talking to someone about your father, a memory also brings back what were technically Raymond's memories as passed down to Boswell (or in one case to his mother then to him). By not being a linear account of Raymond's (or Boswell's) life we are given the opportunity to engage with each memory episodically.

The episodic nature probably helps us to also give room for us not to judge his negative qualities too harshly before we learn how Boswell himself has learned, largely through this process, to better understand his father and himself.

In addition to being a moving account of their lives, it also is organized such that the reader can easily reflect on their own memories of their loved ones. Since I spent many of my school years living in the DC area (Laurel and Greenbelt, mid 60s to early 70s) I found myself going back to memories of my father. Not exactly parallel events to what is in the book but sparked by some of the feelings they conveyed.

While we may not all have actual physical treasure boxes from our parents, we probably have many items from them. Yet even if we don't, we do still have a mental treasure box. I remembered things my father had, things he did. While unboxing Raymond I also spent some time unboxing my own father, and it was a wonderful experience.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jun 14, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I picked this up without remembering it was a memoir at first, and much of it read like a novel. I enjoyed the premise of telling the father's story through items in his treasure box. I also liked how the perception of both father and son changed during the book. ( )
  llarsson7 | May 9, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Unboxing Raymond is the memoir of a father, as told by his son, the author. The son receives a box of mementos that were saved over the course of a lifetime by his dad, now deceased. The story of what is contained in the box awakens memories of the father and their sometimes rocky filial relationship. The items also bring to mind tales of his extended family, his siblings and his mom. Coins, bits of jewelry, medals, tokens, cards, advertisements, and medallions, all likely had significance to the father at one point.

The family was working class, blue collar, and poor. Dad was an upholsterer, working on commissions from families in Washington DC, generally via referrals from other clients. It was a physical job and to support a wife and three children was a tough way to make a living. Dad had a temper and a set of fears and demons, some of which he took out on his sons. Mother often intervened to smooth out these episodes. But there were also times of closeness and even some joy. As the son picks through the objects in the box, most of which had little material value, they bring back times when the family worked together, played together, ate together, and survived.

The location for the book is set in and around Washington DC, quite close to my former workplace and familiar territory for me. So it had a special significance and poignancy.

The book was enjoyable to read, although perhaps a little too long. Emptying the box and recalling the linked activities illuminated a life and lifestyle that has long since left that part of our metro area. It might be especially of interest to a son who is reflecting on his father's life and their family's interactions. I recommend it.
  dee50 | May 7, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Unboxing Raymong
Len Boswell
Black Rose Writing
June 2022
141 pages

Unboxing Raymond is a very interesting and curious memoir, or is it a memoir? There is a disclaimer in the front saying, “This is a work of fiction...any resemblance...is purely coincidental.” This seems contradictory to this reader.

If it is fiction, why make this up?

If is is memoir, I relate to it being not so different from my life, though it was my mother who was mentaly ill, erratic and viscious, etc.

The level of poverty was recognizable also. My father was a farmer and worked so hard, I knew his problems were greater than my cold, wet feet soaked by water through the holes in my shoes. An uncle noticed and cut waxed paperboard milk cartons to shape for my shoes.

The idea of using a box of random stuff to tell the story of a life was one I'd not encountered before. There is no such box from my mother's life, but if there was her baking pans for wedding cakes would have to be included, or the frosting tips for decorating them. They were the highlight of her life. She had a book of cake pictures she'd decorated, but no book of pictures of her children.

The items in his father's box unravel the complexity of the author's father. We all carry contridictions, some are simply more obvious than others. In retrospective, the author can kindly and lovingly appreciate his father's inability to function “normally.” As a child he was unable to do that. That does not make the life any easier, but that does bring understanding and some acceptance.

Our parents are the gods in our lives when we are children. To mature and accept them as fallible human beings is a process that not all are able to accomplish. Unboxing Raymond is one person's experience of doing just that. The author has shared that experience, and I applaud.

It is a human book about human people who are trying the best they can with what they have to do their best – no matter what that looks like from the outside. It is a wise and compassionate memoir.

From one survivor to another,
Thank you,
Duane L Herrmann ( )
  dlherrmann | May 2, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed the free flowing nature of the narrative - objects inspiring associated memories. I also found the glimpses of post war life intriguing. But despite the promise, I didn't really feel like I understood Raymond or the author more by the end. At least not in the way that the author seemed to come to some reconciliation with his father. I guess there wasn't enough emotional background for me as the reader. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Apr 2, 2022 |
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The discovery of his father Raymond's mysterious "treasure box" forces an award-winning writer to reexamine their contentious relationship. As he opens the box and begins taking items out one by one-taking you on a treasure hunt-he is overwhelmed by memories, many funny, some poignant or sad, and a few that may send shivers up your spine. It is in those curiosities that Raymond will be revealed, piece by piece, memory by memory. Hopes, dreams, warts and all. In the end, a different unexpected father emerges. By the time the treasures are all laid out, Raymond will have earned some measure of redemption, and you will have experienced not just the life of a self-employed upholsterer, pigeon fancier, and believer in ghosts and angels, but a glimpse of times long gone, when horses and streetcars ruled Washington, D.C., and Raymond ran barefoot through its streets. You will also discover, as the author did, that when you put people in boxes, there's always room for two. So unboxing one, unboxes the other-with surprising results.

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