A man pulls himself out of a life of crime and drug addiction after a conversion to Christianity in this debut memoir.
In this action-packed autobiography, Haley fights, drinks and spends most of his youth getting into trouble. After spending his childhood witnessing abuse and alcoholism in his family, he learned to be a tough kid, and he spent most of his time with other tough kids. The thing that set him apart was his commitment to fighting for underdogs; he had no problem joining a brawl, but he always backed the weaker fighters. In most of Haley’s stories, though, readers can see that the author was the underdog in his own life; each time he fights his way out of addiction, for example, something happens to pull him back under. He’s drawn to religion early—his stepmother held family séances, and he describes an encounter with a ghost that triggered his exploration of spirituality—but it isn’t until his best friend dies of an overdose that he fully dedicates himself to a clean lifestyle and turns his back on drugs and violence. Before that moment, readers follow Haley to a deep-sea diving school, where students spend their nights playing games of quarters, drinking fifths of rum, and driving aimlessly and recklessly through the night; in Louisiana, he cements his dangerous reputation by fighting a professional kickboxer; and in a small town in Mexico, he comes face to face with real poverty while searching for Xanax. Haley alternates between the memoir and “Rest Stops” where he meditates on passages from the Bible and relates them to the events of his life. His conversational writing style works well in two ways: The wild tales of his life make the reader feel like an old friend, swapping stories in a bar; the overtly religious sections, however, have a confessional feel, and that bar the reader was sitting in transforms into a church basement. It’s a sophisticated way to handle the story and lends depth to both threads.
A well-told memoir that strikes a taut balance between adventure and spiritual meditation.