Monday, July 4, 2011

A Short Review of Sean Astin's "There and Back Again" (and book giveway details)

Before diving into this review, I should make a few personal disclosures.  Sean Astin has been one of my favorite actors for a very long time. His performance in  Lord of the Rings as the hobbit Sam Gamgee was a heroic interpretation of a challenging and often misunderstood character.  As J.R.R. Tolkien has always been one of my most loved authors (I still enjoy re-reading the LTR books.), Sean's absolutely masterful nailing of this character as a performer made a huge impression.  Last, but not least, his gracious review of my children's book, Tristan's Travels, was deeply appreciated.  

I wanted to also briefly announce that my interview of Sean Astin will be shared on this blog on Friday evening.  If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Number the Stars, all you need to do is (publicly) follow the blog.  (The book selection is to celebrate Sean's current movie project.)  If new followers come along in the journey, I will donate one copy of the book to a randomly-selected follower.  (I'm sorry, but I need to exclude immediate family and immediate friends.)  Depending on the numbers of new followers, we also may include one copy of Tristan's Travels to a second person. 

The description of There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale that most often comes to mind is open and honest.  Sean Astin, star in movies from Goonies to Lord of the Rings and Rudy, holds virtually nothing back, as he bares his soul to the reader.  It's written in a very conversational tone, which is really a remarkable achievement for a book of this type.  I don't usually care for books by actors, but this is clearly a book by a strong writer, one who understands how to tell a story.  

The narrative is often punctuated by perfectly-timed flashbacks on earlier points in his career or personal life that illustrate the chapter's present focus.  When done incorrectly, flashbacks are an interruption and a distraction to the reader.  Sean's flashbacks, however, strengthen the narrative as a whole, painting a more complete picture of the performer and his journey.

Of course, as a huge Lord of the Rings fan, the insights into the filming, production of the movies, and other cast members such as Elijah Wood is a fascinating journey in and of itself.  In fact, I'd go on to say that the arduous and painful process of making those three movies exemplifies what it means to be on one's own personal journey.  Do we sit back and allow ourselves to be satisfied with who and what we are and have done, or do we try to improve ourselves and accomplish greater things?  The book really is an inspirational work.  While Sean's account can be heartbreakingly honest, it really is a story of a man's maturing and growing as a husband, father, and world class performer.  I look forward to reading and watching more from this writer, performer, and director.

As a final aside, I even briefly alluded to Frodo and Sam in one of my favorite articles: "Mysterious Tools," published by America, the National Catholic Weekly.

*Enjoyed reading this?  For the more Sean Astin information, please see my new e-book!


  1. Thanks, Karl, and I look forward to the interview. I, too, loved Astin's Sam. No matter how many times I've seen that movie--many--the final scenes on Mt. Doom never fail to wollop me. We also watched (I think) every minute of all that extra material on the DVDs, and I was always impressed by Astin's matter-of-fact intelligence. I'm looking forward to reading the book, which I've added to my not inconsiderable collection of Tolkieniana.

  2. it is also translated into German language and sold here in Germany???

  3. I don't know whether it's available in German, but I would suggest checking Amazon. Sorry!