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Book review: ‘Hitchhikers’ is the memoir of a Y. professor's years as a homeless boy

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 13 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"HITCHHIKERS," by Bernard Poduska, Covenant Communications, $15.99, 210 pages (nf)

Hitchhiking across the Western United States with his family was how Bernard "Buddy" Poduska spent several years of his childhood. But homelessness was only one of the trials Buddy experienced.

His father was an abusive alcoholic who frequently left for periods of time only to show up later with promises of having changed. To the heartbreak of Buddy’s family, those promises were never kept.

Because of her husband’s philandering ways, Buddy’s mother was usually the breadwinner of the family. However, she also experienced periods of immaturity, keeping her husband company while barhopping. Buddy and his older sister, Carolyn, were frequently left on their own while their parents spent the nights carousing.

“Hitchhikers” recounts the hardships of a little boy sleeping under cover of newspapers, running from Social Services and having his Christmas presents stolen from his father. It's told mostly as flashbacks as an older Buddy and Carolyn reminisce outside of their mother's hospital room.

However, it also focuses on kindness from strangers and how those acts of mercy brought hope into the lives of Buddy and his family. Random acts of service abounded from a baker serving an impromptu doughnut breakfast, to an Army convoy trekking the family across the desert, to a stranger paying for a hospital visit.

While the book can take awhile to connect with, “Hitchhikers” can reaffirm readers’ hopes in humanity with these and many other instances of compassion shown to Buddy’s family.

While most of the book focuses on his younger years, Poduska also tells of how a boy grew up Catholic, turned to atheism and was then joined the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He shares his testimony and teaches many of the gospel’s basic principles throughout the book.

“Hitchhikers” has clean language and ends happily with the conversion of Poduska to the LDS Church. But it also deals with the repercussions of alcohol use and describes family violence.

A current resident of Utah, Bernard Poduska taught at Brigham Young University for more than 20 years and is currently serving on the Saratoga Springs City Council.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at www.gelatoandchocolate.blogspot.com

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