Leaving Shangrila


A well-paced memoir steeped in strife, struggle, sorrow, and, eventually, freedom.

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The poignant life story of a woman who escaped a restrictive past to embrace an independent future.   

Gecils’ inspirational debut memoir, 11 years in the making, is both an astute character study and a harrowing familial drama that plays out in the lush environs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The author grew up as a middle child; she had two sisters, although she says her mother secretly wished for sons. In order to support the family, the author’s father became a software programmer at IBM and traveled a great deal; their lonely mother dejectedly handed off child-rearing responsibilities to a maid, a nanny, and the children’s grandparents. Desperate for acceptance, Gecils’ mother reached out to the superstitious spiritual sects in Rio for direction and embarked on a long-term, clandestine affair as her daughters attended a local French private school. The author’s misery escalated, she says, when her mother unceremoniously whisked her and her sisters to Shangrila, a cramped, isolated “make-shift farm” in the Brazilian forest, with their staunchly pious new stepfather, Lauro, who pursued a delirious mission to father the next “Messiah.” Gecils’ experience becomes gradually more harrowing as she finds herself a virtual prisoner on the farm. The author paces her personal narrative well, taking time to describe both the history of her family and of Brazil’s capital city. She also reveals details of her religious indoctrination at the hands of her mother and stepfather; they urged her to see prophetic visions at the cult’s meetings, she says, and she became further isolated after her biological father remarried and severed ties. She also dealt with sexual abuse, domestic violence, and bullying, which led her to make plans for a new life, unencumbered by her militant stepfather’s rules. Gecils’ resonant chronicle explores themes of belonging, family allegiance, and starting over. As it does so, it effectively tells the story of the burgeoning liberation of a young girl who had her eye on a bright horizon.

A well-paced memoir steeped in strife, struggle, sorrow, and, eventually, freedom.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63047-684-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Morgan James Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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