Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lunch Bucket Paradise

It was a simpler, more innocent, time – a time when people were as enthusiastically optimistic about their own futures as they were about the future of the country.  Most would also argue that it was a better period in America’s social history than the one we find ourselves enduring today.  But whichever side of the argument one might come down on, those of us who came of age in the 1960s will certainly find a lot to like about Fred Setterberg’s Lunch Bucket Paradise.

Lunch Bucket Paradise is Setterberg’s novelization of his childhood days in California suburbia.  This was a period during which whole neighborhoods were being carved from the open spaces surrounding America’s cities and towns, a time when carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other craftsmen worked hard just to keep up with the demand for new housing and schools.  World War II and Korean War veterans were ready to get on with life.  These men and women were well acquainted with what sacrifice and persistent effort could achieve, two habits that would serve them well for the rest of their lives.

 It was their children, however, who reaped the most immediate benefits of all that hard work.  Slick (as his uncle most often calls him) and his buddies grew up very differently than their parents had grown up only one generation earlier.  Their days were spent playing “war” as they fought their way from one green lawn to the next firing rubber bands from the elaborate wooden pistols they created.  Their bicycles, combined with what seemed to them to be an endless length of newly paved surfaces, gave them the kind of freedom boys their age only dream about today.  They explored the world together and probably knew more about each other than they would ever know about another human being.

Fred Setterberg
Lunch Bucket Paradise, though, is more than just a novel about what it was like for a boy like Fred Setterberg to grow up in 1960s suburbia.  Perhaps more importantly, it is Setterberg’s appreciative tribute to what his parents and others of their generation achieved for themselves and those who follow them.  Here, for instance, the author closes a one-page aside about how ants tend to invade homes in the heat of summer, with these words:

            “That’s what your kids need to understand.  Everybody does their bit.  Liking it or not doesn’t figure into the equation.  Every little one of us, shoulder to shoulder, oblivious mostly to one another’s feats and valor, losses, failures, wasted efforts – though nothing’s ever really wasted, is it?...It’s all part of the mix.  It’s what we call civilization.”

The bottom line is that “an ant alone is an ant in trouble,” words that will serve one well for a lifetime.  In the end, our parents - inadvertently or not - prepared us to live a life different from their own.  They made it possible for us to dream and they gave us the support we needed to achieve those dreams.

Rated at: 3.5

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. I'm interested in reading this if it at least as well written as the review. I did grow up in an L A suburb in the 60's.

  2. Susan, you would probably enjoy this one because it's a nice look at a significant part of California's social history. Let me know what you think if you read it.