Heartbreaking inspirational memoir of one young man’s battle to overcome poverty and crime.
Born out of wedlock in 1949, Isley spent his youth steeped in poverty, picking cotton alongside his grandparents, who raised him and 13 other children. Growing up parentless as an African-American boy in rural North Carolina, Isley faced hardship at every turn. He was drawn into crime at an early age, falling in with a bad crowd and their lifestyle of petty thievery. Soon enough, however, Isley became a major gambler and the severity of his crimes worsened: in the tenth grade, he stabbed a boy and was nearly sent to prison. By the time he turned 20, Isley was an accomplished loan shark living in Philadelphia, managing an illegal gambling ring and dabbling in drugs. At 23, he was the center of an up-and-coming crime syndicate. It was a lifestyle that could not last. After former friendships soured and a hit man was hired to kill him, Isley left his life of crime and started fresh with his young wife Carmen. They moved into a new neighborhood, opened a small corner store and managed to keep afloat in the face of rigorous obstacles. The couple’s new home was serendipitously located next door to a Catholic church, and Isley turned to his neighboring congregation for spiritual guidance. The values formerly instilled by his deeply religious grandparents were renewed and the family soon became deeply involved with the church. Several years later, Isley was ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon. The author’s style is rough-hewn, but this only accentuates the scrapes and stumbles of his life. Isley mainly lets his tale tell its own moral, forgoing any sermonizing, but he makes clear throughout the text that good parents, strong friendships and true love can make all the difference.
Moving statement of faith from reformed criminal.