The inspirational odyssey of an American hero.

A celebrated war veteran and Olympic contender shares his life’s lessons.

Not simply another rehashing of Zamperini’s (Devil at My Heels: A WWII Hero’s Epic Saga of Torment, Survival, and Forgiveness, 2003) incredible history, this second memoir, dictated to co-writer Rensin during the last year of the author’s life, brims with sage wisdom, learned advice and fond observations from his adventurous 97 years. Zamperini answers the most recurring questions asked of him during book signings and lectures, mostly pertaining to his adventures after his service in World War II, his secret to living honorably and what role his faith in God played. The author weaves practical advice into anecdotes on his parents, his troubled adolescence, his post-military spiritual connection with Billy Graham, and how his affinity for distance running on an Olympic level honed enough mental discipline to endure and survive the sadistic torture of a Japanese POW camp and the PTSD that followed. The author also provides robust wilderness survival tips, which saved his life while adrift on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean and during his service as a U.S. Army Air Force bombardier. Certainly, his counsel is often platitudinous (exercise forgiveness, challenge yourself, be positive, and give back), but it’s also inspirational, and his words will offer a reflective refresher course for those receptive to it. Never boastful yet full of prideful personality, Zamperini’s tireless zest manifested in his later years with speaking engagements and collaboration with the Angelina Jolie–produced film adaptation of Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling book Unbroken (2010), based on his astonishing, fruitful life. Stuffed with bolstering, life-affirmative reinforcement, Zamperini’s legacy lives on through words and film, embodied best by a photograph of the nonagenarian skillfully riding a skateboard.

The inspirational odyssey of an American hero.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0062368331

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014


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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