Rick Seidel,
Sunsets & Shooting Stars: A Cape Cod Memoir
(Cold Tree Press, 2007)

Family vacations can be fun times to remember, especially when the distance of years softens even the most stressful calamities from the past. Sunsets & Shooting Stars documents the Cape Cod adventures of a Pennsylvania-based family over the course of the last 35 years. Author Rick Seidel is quick to remind us that he's grown up to be a doctor, not a writer. But his passions for both his family and for that special sandy Massachusetts peninsula come through loud and clear with his well-chosen words.

For four generations of Seidels, the annual one-week summer destination has been the town of Truro, just south of Provincetown. The men launch their boats into Cape Cod Bay from Pamet Harbor and settle in for some fishing. The women spend time sunbathing and going shopping/people-watching in Provincetown. The kids go one way or the other, or find their own interests to pursue.

But they have to get to the Cape, first. When Rick and his younger siblings (Rob, Kristen and Kim) were growing up, they rode in the back of their parents' capped pickup, all the way from northeastern Pennsylvania to the easternmost edge of New England, usually in the wee hours of the morning to beat the infamous U.S. Route 6 traffic. Yikes! This arrangement made for some shenanigans amongst the two boys and two girls, especially with Rob's penchant for practical jokes and for tormenting everyone around him. Ah, for the joys of childhood, before any safety seat laws were enacted!

As time passes, Rick and the rest get immersed in the recreational opportunities of the area. So his stories here include details of fishing, boating and other beach-oriented activities. You'll witness the maiden voyage of The Watermonkey in the bay waters, learn who was responsible for "the squid incident" and appreciate the pleasures of the uncracked lobster. It's the history of one extended middle-class family; and yet, these are vignettes we can certainly all relate to. Each chapter begins with an appropriate pencil drawing by talented artist Lonna Emerson, who adds a creative and casual beach feel to the text. The volume itself concludes with 26 pages of black-and-white family photos that give us a chance to see in person the main characters who appear in the rest of the book.

The storytelling eventually comes to an end, but the Seidels' visits and connections to Truro continue. Rick and his siblings are passing the vacation traditions along to their children -- even though Rick's home base is now in Texas with his wife and three kids, and Rob's family lives in California. These days, both have to fly in, which is a far cry from their first trips to the beach, when they were stretched out in the back of the pickup. The Seidel men now make an extra trip in June, sans women, to bond and get in more uninterrupted fishing. And plans are afoot to finally buy a property that everyone can share. (Gosh, the money they would have saved if they had only bought one of those cottages back in the 1970s!)

Sunsets & Shooting Stars is a fun and quick read that should appeal to Baby Boomers, fellow Cape Cod vacationers and anyone who loves the beach. It's the kind of memoir that makes you want to write your own.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Corinne H. Smith

18 October 2008

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