A funny, heartwarming memoir about saying goodbye to your childhood home, in this case a quirky, one-of-a-kind, family-run miniature golf course in the woods of Wisconsin
When June Melby was ten years old, her parents decided on a whim to buy the miniature golf course in the small Wisconsin town where they vacationed every summer. Without any business experience or outside employees, the family sets out to open Tom Thumb Miniature Golf to the public. Naturally, there are bumps along the way. In My Family and Other Hazards, Melby recreates all the squabbling, confusion, and ultimately triumph, of one family’s quest to build something together, and brings to life the joys of one of America’s favorite pastimes. In sharp, funny prose, we get the hazards that taunted players at each hole, and the dedication and hard work that went into each one’s creation. All the familiar delights of summer are here—snowcones and popcorn and long days spent with people you love.
Melby’s relationship with the course is love-hate from the beginning, given the summer’s freedom it robs her of, but when her parents decide to sell the course years later, her panicked reaction surprises even her. Now an adult living in Hollywood, having flown the Midwest long ago, she flies back to the course to help run it before the sale goes through, wondering if she should try to stop it. As the clock ticks, she reflects on what the course meant to her both as a child and an adult, the simpler era that it represents, and the particular pains of losing your childhood home, even years after you’ve left it.
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Dad is an inventor. He creates new mini golf hazards that run on small motors and roller skate wheels which turn on lights and make the little doors open and close. Usually.
Mom is practical. Like a pencil, she’s slim and stream-lined and good at doing practically anything. She keeps the place running, but will deny it.
LeAnn, the eldest, is dark skinned, dark haired. Perhaps less a sister than a threat. She gets a side-job pouring concrete. Her eyebrows are thick and threaten to take over the world.
Carla, the youngest, is light-skinned and delicate. She tends to fall off her bike or get sick most days of the year. Fragile, but nice to have around. Like a teapot. Comforting.
June, the middle child, is like a brown dog, medium colored, medium sized, and easy to miss. She can’t do a cartwheel or throw a ball. But is good at trying hard, only it never seems enough.
Bo, the collie, has the job of being a vacuum cleaner, and springs into action whenever popcorn is spilled on the course, which tourists do at a rate of about once per hour.
Frankie, the cat, is a hunter and adds a random element to your game. She drags half-dead animals across fairways and greens.
“A wonderful, witty account of growing up on a mini-golf course…In a droll, understated voice that recalls Dorothy Parker, Melby writes of the years her family owned and operated Tom Thumb... The book is packed with self-contained vignettes that have the shapeliness of a well-told joke."
—The Christian Science Monitor
“Enchanting... An outpouring of tender, witty memories... Melby showcases her corny, unaffected Midwestern humor in this inspired work.”
“My Family and Other Hazards is a winning, charming memoir about summers spent at a family-owned mini-golf course in Wisconsin. I would have loved this even if I wasn’t the former Junior Putt-Putt Champion of Chautauqua, New York. Funny and nostalgic without being sentimental, Melby deftly captures her family’s seemingly endless lakeside summers and the inevitable letting go of childhood. A perfect summer book.”
editor of Tin House
“I bet you’ve never picked up a memoir about miniature golf before now. Neither had I! But June Melby’s deeply funny and endearing book goes far beyond novelty to tell an evocative story about memory, family, and the perfection of Midwestern summers.”
author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.
“Thanks to June's witty and poetic recollections, you don't just read this book — you become part of the Melby family. And that's a helluva ride, because besides being wildly funny, the Melbys have a lot to teach us all about the meaning of the word ‘success.’”
author of I’m Down
“In this utterly hilarious and deeply moving memoir, June Melby recounts her unusual childhood growing up in a family who ran a miniature golf course. Impossible to put down for its witty and conversational style, you'll turn the last page reminded that the places we call home are often carved from the times we feel the farthest from it. An impressive debut from a deserving writer.”
—Claire Bidwell Smith,
author of The Rules of Inheritance
“My Family and Other Hazards is a perfect balance of wit and warmth: you start off laughing at a perfectly executed running joke about the forgotten youngest child or the portrait of a family's competitive, compulsive generosity, but by the end you realize June Melby has been building a rich, generous, and loving portrait of her parents all along.”
author of Bread and Butter