Announcing Our Best Books of 2021

BookBrowse Reviews Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Hollywood Park

by Mikel Jollett

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett X
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2020, 384 pages
    Mar 22, 2022, 384 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book



An indie rock musician reflects on his coming-of-age and his family's escape from a notorious California cult.

It is not unusual for members of indie rock bands to have had close brushes with substance abuse and rehabilitation programs. But the story Mikel Jollett, frontman for the Airborne Toxic Event, has to tell in Hollywood Park is far from usual. His earliest years were spent at Synanon, the famous-turned-infamous alcohol and drug rehabilitation commune/cult in California in the 1970s (see Beyond the Book), just as the situation there began to disintegrate.

Jollett's abilities as a narrative songwriter serve him well in the storytelling techniques he employs in this engrossing memoir. The first chapters cover Jollett's escape from Synanon with his brother and their mother Gerry in the dead of night with the help of her parents. He narrates as his four-year-old self, complete with stream-of-consciousness misinterpretations, misspellings and made-up words straight out of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. As Jollett matures, so do his comprehension of the situation and his writing style, though because of the independence he was forced into in his early life, he always seems older than his years.

Life may change for Gerry and sons Tony and Mikel after leaving Synanon, but it does not necessarily get better, with a succession of men in recovery from one addiction or another, barely habitable low-income housing and Synanon pursuing them after their escape. Then there is the added complication of the boys' father, who sincerely wants to be a part of his sons' lives, and his new partner Bonnie, a woman who cared for Mikel in Synanon's children's compound. This is a jagged story of multiple generations struggling to recover from unhealed brokenness, told by one young man who is just beginning to find wholeness. Though he began life as a cult's "child of the universe" separated from his parents, by his 30s the author has accumulated a close extended family, blood-related and otherwise.

Jollett's storytelling becomes disjointed and less detail-rich around his college years, perhaps because he has not yet gained the same ruminative perspective he has on his meticulously remembered childhood and youth. (That said, the accounts of interviews with David Bowie and Robert Smith of the Cure done for a music magazine are packed with tiny, insightful observations.) This is not a book to inform the reader how an indie band comes into existence and achieves success; it is one man's memoir. That may be disappointing to readers drawn to the book less because of Jollett's unusual backstory and more because they are followers of the band; the band's formation and earliest songs take up less than 50 pages.

Nevertheless, this creatively spun memoir will give readers insight into Jollett's fascinating childhood and the influences that made him the unique artist he is today.

This review first ran in the June 3, 2020 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    People from My Neighborhood
    by Hiromi Kawakami
    People from My Neighborhood is exactly what it sounds like — an unnamed narrator recounts a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Win Me Something
    by Kyle Lucia Wu
    Kyle Lucia Wu's Win Me Something opens with a young woman named Willa explaining that she did not ...
  • Book Jacket: The Island of Missing Trees
    The Island of Missing Trees
    by Elif Shafak
    The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak tells a tale of generational trauma, explores identity ...
  • Book Jacket: The Correspondents
    The Correspondents
    by Judith Mackrell
    In the introduction to The Correspondents, author Judith Mackrell points out that although there had...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    True Crime Story
    by Joseph Knox

    The #1 international bestselling novel. What happens to all the girls who go missing?

Who Said...

The thing that cowardice fears most is decision

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

I Y Can't S T H, G O O T K

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.