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My Heart is an Idiot    by Davy Rothbart order for
My Heart is an Idiot
by Davy Rothbart
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

My Heart is an Idiot is a collection of essays by Davy Rothbart. Rothbart has a quirky kind of humor, and most of these essays reflect that, with a general theme being his seemingly never-ending search for his one true love. Romantic love is not his only concern, though, as he also writes eloquently about his family, and friends whom he cares about. He is a frequent contributor to public radio's This American Life, and as I read this book I could almost hear him reading some of these essays, particularly the first two, which were my favorites.

Bigger and Deafer, the first piece, is about the youthful pranks that he played on his deaf mother. This is a loving and very funny account of the sort of tricks that boys delight in playing on parents, and because his mother was deaf, he could get away with things that astonished his friends, such as using bad language. She had lost her hearing after a strange illness about three years before he was born, so she could and did speak, but the whole family learned sign language to talk to her.

One of his favorite tricks was to turn up the car radio so loud that he couldn't hear a word she said if she was lecturing him about something. He would nod now and then, and he was sure that she never knew that he didn't hear her. He tells us that 'As long as I kept the bass down, how was she to know that I was nodding along to the Fresh Prince song 'I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson' and not to her instructions on how to clean out the gutters? She never understood the looks she got from other drivers, who must have been baffled to see a middle-aged mom tooling slowly along in an Aerostar, blasting Def Leppard at rock-concert volume.' She was smarter than he gave her credit for, though, as we find out at the end of this essay.

The second piece, Human Snowball, tells of an amazing set of coincidences that occur while he's trying to connect with a girl whom he had known in high school. When she came home for the Christmas holidays in Michigan they saw each other at a party and kindled a tentative romance. He decides after several 'soulful letters and ... two very brief, awkward phone conversations' to surprise her by showing up at her door on Valentine's Day. He rides the Greyhound bus from Detroit to Buffalo, starts a conversation with 'an ancient-looking black guy' who's sitting next to him and who tells him that he's going to have his hundred-and-tenth birthday the next day. Davy goes on to have a wonderful adventure with this man when they reach Buffalo.

The Strongest Man in the World, about a man who has been sent to prison for life for a crime he didn't commit, is a sad story which tells about Davy's meeting and subsequent friendship with Byron Case. He comes to care deeply about Byron, visiting him on many occasions at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Although he writes about the efforts of many people to get Byron freed from prison, we never learn that this has been accomplished.

The warmth of Davy's feelings for those he writes about, whether that be his mother, a girlfriend he goes to visit, a very old man he sits next to on a bus, or a man whom he believes has been sent to prison unjustly, provide a window into his heart. He cares about the people he meets and that concern is apparent in his stories. His heart may not always make the right choices romantically, but it is certainly in the right place most of the time.

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