A lively and engaging book, April 10, 2009
Feathered Quill Book Reviews (Goshen, MA) - Posted on Amazon.com
Grab a cup of coffee, settle in to a cozy armchair, and enjoy a fireside chat with author Charles W. Shirriff as he recounts the events of his long, lively, and many times hysterically funny, life. It's Not Where You're Going -It's How You Get There relates Shirriff's life from his humble farm boy beginnings on a drought plagued farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, to his jobs and travels throughout Canada and the United States. The author first devotes a chapter to one of his favorite subjects - cars. Shirriff briefly mentions his "car-deprived years," but focuses on those far more fulfilling times when he had an automobile. A theme quickly becomes obvious; Shirriff loved buying cheap cars, using them for a few years, and then selling them to friends for $1. The autobiography next follows the author's early life, through school, his first jobs, and then his 35 year teaching stint at the Portage Collegiate Institute near Winnipeg, Canada. It is clear that Shirriff is a bright individual as he sailed through school, although he admits that it was "astonishingly boring" thus, teachers would think he was uninterested. He also had a tendency to discover errors in teachers' problem solutions which certainly didn't endear him to many instructors. During summer breaks and the early years after graduation, Shirriff had a series of unusual and quite interesting jobs. He worked in a mental hospital, a mine, and then, as a meteorologist "...measuring the thickness of the upper air ozone layer." This job required living in a remote area, accessible only by train. Shirriff's description of the Northern Lights and the sounds they made, "...crackling sounds as if the entire sky were having a short-circuit," makes the episode come to life for the reader. Unlike many autobiographies that go into painstaking detail about every little episode in the author's life, It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There avoids that pitfall and instead devotes just the right amount of text to each important experience. Shirriff dedicates just one chapter to his 35 years at Portage Collegiate Institute, and then, as he does for several chapters, includes short vignettes highlighting some of his more memorable incidents. Another key element in making It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There an autobiography that people will want to read is that the author is very funny. Shirriff has an entertaining, self-deprecating style that keeps the reader laughing throughout this book. In the first chapter, he tells of the day he was driving along the highway with his mother in their 1929 Model A Ford. Driving along, his mother noticed "...a wheel rolling merrily across the ditch and through the field." Deciding they should stop, the pair exited the car and noticed the left rear wheel missing. Off Shirriff went, chasing the tire. Another story is told of a teaching stint where the author was both teacher and principal. Like all schools, he had plenty of forms to fill out but "...I just pretended I knew what I was doing and filled the forms out as I saw fit." That was, until he received a rather critical letter from the Department of Education. It's Not Where You're Going-It's How You Get There is abundant with such stories and will have the reader chuckling along and wishing that the author was a nightly dinner guest. Quill says: If you're looking for a lively and engaging book about the good old days, pick up a copy of It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There. For anyone seeking a good old-fashioned memoir, June 10, 2009
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
There are many ways to get through life, and each of them is more strange than the last. It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There is a collection of memoirs by author Charles W. Shirriff reflecting on his life and the unique way he cut his own path through it all. Written by a man who has been all over North America, It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There is intriguing in a profoundly human way. It's Not Where You're Going - It's How You Get There is of interest to anyone seeking a good old-fashioned memoir.
By G. Reba (Panama City, FL) on Amazon.com
Through the eyes of experience, the reader is able to see what the journey of life had in store for the author and his own variations on that theme which he was able to install along the way. With a penchant for green Morris Minors and a "take it as it comes attitude", he made his way from a small town Canadian boy who had "school smarts" as opposed to the needed "street smarts", to world traveling family man with two children, on which to share his rich past. If one was a friend of Mr. Shirriff's growing up, you may have ended up purchasing one of his favorite old cars for the handsome sum of $1, or you very well may have helped him make liquid nitoglycerine in a school science lab. Whatever the situation, it seems you'd walk away with a greater knowledge of the problem, if not the solution, and a friend when in need. His many life adventures traverse the hallowed halls of the education system from teacher to principal to counselor. These lessons learned provided him with a needed "self-structure" on his continuing journey through life; one that enabled him to thrive. Along with a peek into the universities of yester-year, Mr. Shirriff provides you with personal anecdotes to keep you smiling, nay even laughing, from his meetings with the Dean to his first encounter with transvestite "ladies of the night". So, grab your drink of choice, your reading glasses, and a seat in your favorite reading sanctuary and settle in for a "meet-and-greet" with an interesting character with a story to share. Happy reading!