A Memoir
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How to take control of your finances, your extra weight and your life.

MacDonald is the last candidate anyone would pick to come up with a devastatingly simple destiny-altering strategy. Mainly that's because, as he reveals in his winningly self-castigating memoir, he was an utter screw-up well into his 20s. A high-school athlete and Ivy League grad, by 2000 he was a grievously overweight, dangerously indebted and chronically underemployed barfly scratching out an existence in Baltimore. Sick of being “a big, fat bastard,” 27-year-old MacDonald developed what he called the Urban Hermit plan, which involved eating no more than 800 calories per day and spending no money. Used to downing dozens of beers each night at his corner bar, he subsisted instead on lentils and cheap canned tuna. Without money, he went on walks and focused on his work. In short order, he was assigned to do a story in Bosnia and was working on a feature article for a national magazine. He lost more than 100 pounds in two and a half months, dug himself out of debt and generally started feeling better. If MacDonald had presented himself as an exemplar of our fat, consumerist society, his book wouldn't work half as well as it does. Instead he smartly traces the outline of a down-and-dirty life that was clawed back from the brink of utter collapse not a moment too soon. His enthusiastic embrace of hard work and strict discipline is inspirational, no less for the rarity of the message. Perhaps the most appealing quality is the author’s awareness of what a foolish example he sets: “Anyone stupid enough to view The Urban Hermit as a diet book and use it as such will probably die of kidney failure. And deservedly so.”

An invigorating portrait of being down but not out.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-37699-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2008