The concise chapters, with titles including “What is a Mentor?” and “The Answer is Family” and ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages, make for a readable but not slapdash approach. The sum of the parts echoes the public figure, the genial and even courtly man that viewers have been watching on the “Jeopardy!” quiz show since 1984.
The fan support and affection that greeted Trebek’s 2019 pancreatic cancer disclosure encouraged him to write about his life. But the illness and its toll, while honestly addressed, don't dominate the book.
Instead, the Canada-born Trebek focuses on his roots as the child of an immigrant father and French Canadian mother, the work ethic that earned him TV success, and the contented marriage he shares with Jean, now also his caregiver as he undergoes treatment.
There are engaging tidbits about Trebek’s former love for flashy cars (he drives a more utilitarian pickup these days); the satisfaction he gets out of playing home handyman; the contestants he admires and the one he bonded with.
He is uniformly self-deprecating, including telling a story on himself that involves Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and suggesting modestly that he’s known but not celebrated. Instead, he writes, he’s like a visiting relative that the audience finds “comforting and reassuring as opposed to being impressed by me.”
A couple of minor foes in his life get dinged, including a “martinet” of a priest at a church-run school and a producer who stiffed him, but if he’s harboring deep hostility it isn’t revealed here. His even disposition appears to have served him well and consistently over his 80 years. He was born July 22, 1940.
Trebek overcame the resentment he harbored over his mother’s decision to leave an ill-fitting marriage and move to the United States. He’s remained friendly with his ex-wife, Elaine, and devoted to her daughter, Nicky, with both part of an extended family circle that includes Matthew and Emily, his children with Jean.
Trebek’s philosophical bent emerges clearly in the memoir, as he shares his perspective on human nature, spirituality and the value of knowledge. The naturalized U.S. citizen only nibbles around the edges of politics and the polarization he condemns as self-defeating, leaving the impression he has much more to say on the topic.
Maybe those answers will come in the next book.