Burn Zones by Jorge P. Newbery

Burn Zones

Playing Life's Bad Hands
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A riches-to-rags memoir that offers unique perspectives on business, punk rock, inequality, cycling, and family.

Debut author Newbery has held a surprising assortment of titles throughout his life: a lending mogul, the No. 1 Housing and Urban Development broker in the country, a professional cyclist, a leader in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a ruined businessman, and a key figure in LA’s gritty, early punk scene. As he tells it, each new venture seemed logical, because he always remained the same—a socially awkward but resilient entrepreneur who was committed to what was before him. His incredible work ethic led to success in everything he tried, until he began to buy and revamp some of the most blighted, dangerous properties in the country. What started as challenging work evolved into genuine efforts to improve the lives of those in poor minority communities. Unfortunately, infuriating bureaucracy and insurance companies led to his downfall and crippling debt. In an intriguing twist, the Great Recession of 2008 provided him a path forward when he dedicated himself to helping people who could no longer afford their mortgages. As one might expect with someone so successful, Newbery puts business first, dedicating most of the first half of his story to meticulous overviews of his business dealings, athletic accomplishments, and a particular property that incurred the most debt. His intense focus on these subjects, interesting as they are, leaves readers with little personal information about the author himself or his motivations. However, when he expands on some events in more detail (and in a first-person perspective), he proves to be an observant, witty storyteller. For example, his stories of failed social interactions, as with a group of women who tried to make him dance, have perfect timing and are laugh-out-loud funny. As he uses this technique more often in the second half, he produces insightful, powerful observations about his family and the most important economic issues of our time.

Although it takes some time to get to know him, the author eventually reveals himself to be even more intriguing than his fascinating career.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61961-320-1
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Community Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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