“Joe Cottonwood repairs homes. With each job, he enters somebody’s private world. Revealing a life. Or changing it. Joe has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life.”
“Joe Cottonwood was born in 1947, bent his first nail in 1952, and wrote his first story in 1956. He's been a writer and a carpenter ever since.” In addition to this memoir, Cottonwood has several other books available aimed at every age range from children, to young adult, to us grownups.
I was slightly apprehensive about 99 Jobs, not sure whether it was something I’d enjoy or not. On one hand, I’ve found memoirs about ordinary people from different walks of life to be fascinating in the glimpses they give into those lives, helping give me a deeper understanding of a variety of people and, in theory, maybe making me a slightly better person. On the other hand, how well would you expect a typical carpenter, plumber, and all around handyman to be able to string words together? Hopefully better than I can drive a nail, replace shingles, or for that matter, string words together. It turns out Cottonwood isn’t your stereo-typical blue collar guy. (Maybe there is a lesson for me there.)
99 Jobs could be viewed as a series of vignettes, each telling the tale of a single job over his long career. Every “job” or chapter could stand alone. One of the first chapters, Junior Electrician, chronicles Joe’s job changing light bulbs on a college campus in St Louis. That he was also a student at that same college, eventually graduating and working as a computer operator, is one way he turned out not to be your typical handyman, eventually realizing that he preferred working with his hands, often outside exposed to the elements, rather than spending his workday in the sterile environment of the computer room.
However, taken together, the individual jobs or chapters form a coherent whole that paints a picture of Cottonwood as a person. Besides giving an idea of what the life of a handyman might be like, they’re also full of lessons about life and people well beyond just the nuts and bolts of Cottonwood’s work.
Some adult language.
Added for Reprise Review: 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses by Joe Cottonwood was a nominee in the Non-Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran May 18, 2014
No significant issues.
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words