This is my first book review so please bear with me if it is not what you expected :)

This will actually be a combination book/movie review since both tell the same story with different levels of detail.

The story is an autobiographical tale from Chris Gardner, a man who has inspired me to do better just with his sheer determination to succeed. Chris goes from being an up-and-comer in the United States Navy, to being broke and homeless while trying to raise his son all by himself.

The movie focused more on the end of the story, when Chris' marriage is on the rocks and most of his money is gone due to a bad decision to enter the world of medical sales. Chris hustles and runs around town trying to sell every doctor he can find this new kind of bone scanner that is set to revolutionize the medical field. The little money he makes selling these goes to paying household bills, food, a great number of parking tickets, and daycare for his child. There is money to save and if he does not make at least one sale per month, they have to figure out another way to eat because they won't have enough money. Sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse. After his wife leaves him because she just can't deal with it anymore, Chris tells her that he wants to take care of their son. He made a promise to himself that his son will always no who his father is and he will always be a part of his life. Chris never knew his father but the movie does not show what he went through as a child.

In the book it explains the abuse that Chris's stepfather inflicted on him as a child. Chris was given a steady dose of "I don't know who your daddy is but it definitely ain't me", on top of being beaten relentlessly by this "man" who was just a horror to be around. Gardner was also molested as a child by man who held a knife to his throat while he was trying to sell him some stolen goods. The man was given every opportunity to blame everyone for where his life would end up, he was given every excuse in the book to do nothing with his life and just wallow in sorrow as he contemplated what could have been...but he refused to use these excuses.

He had no male role models growing up, he grew up poor, his mother was in and out of prison (for trying to kill his stepfather) and had almost no resources to help him succeed. This did not stop him from achieving his dream, even if he did not know this was his dream at the time. Gardner originally wanted to be the next Miles Davis, and who didn't back in those days :)
Chris joined the Navy as soon as he graduated high school, he joined in an effort to score with some overseas ladies, but he joined nonetheless. This is where the book and the movie differ.

The movie paints the picture of a hardworking man who just wants to do good by his child and has no support from anyone. The book eventually gets to this, but it does show a womanizing, horndog side to Gardner as well. The book also talks about the jobs Gardner has held besides his financial dealings. Apparently he had a hand in the medical publishing field (he helped author some published medical papers), he was a medical lab assistant before that, he eventually got into sales, and he was a petty thief when he was younger. He and his friends broke into some sort of trade show and stole a bunch of audio/video equipment and pastries. Bring back memories of my misguided youth :) The book also explains how Chris girlfriend ran off with their son and only after she could no longer care for him did she bring him back to Gardner, and their adventure together began. With that said, the man loved his son deeply and was determined to make his life better so his son would never have to experience what Chris did.

Chris's life takes the ultimate turn when he meets a man in red Ferrari and asks the questions we have all seen in the commercials:

"What do you do, and how can I do it"

This is where he discovers the world of high finance and stock trading. He is eventually offered an internship at Dean-Witter after dealing with an arrest and countless obstacles that were put in his way. Of course, you don't get paid when your interning, besides a stipend. Gardner does everything in his power to make sure he is hired full time, seriously. He tried to drink as little water as possible to keep from going to the bathroom, he slept at the office sometimes so he could get an early start, he ate lunch at his desk whenever he could afford to bring lunch, he would also bring his son to work to save money on daycare expenses. He took the phrase "do what you gotta do" to a whole new level. Don't just sit on the excuse, think of a solution and find a way to get it done. That's what this taught me, everyone has problems, most are bigger than yours so get over it and get moving.

Gardener thought his life was about to get better, but it actually got much worse. Gardner was staying at sort of halfway hotel when his girlfriend came back with their son, the house did not allow any children so he had to find a new place to stay. When he could afford it, they slept in a hotel/motel some nights. But most nights, Glide Memorial Church provided the shelter for the night. Another interesting tidbit that was left out of the movie that I think would have made for an interesting scene, the "Ladies of the Night"/hookers who worked around the area of Chris and his son's motel actually helped them out whenever they saw him walking around with his son in the stroller. Gardner actually walked around the area on purpose looking for them so they could give them a few bucks and they could eat for the night.

Glide Memorial provided Chris and his son with a hot meal and a room when they would otherwise have been sleeping in the BART bathroom. Gardner discovered this bathroom when he and his son were riding the train trying to kill some time as they had nowhere else to sleep. Gardner remembered a particular station he used to stop in when he used to work the area, it was clean and it had a lock on the door. He laid some newspaper down and had his son rest his head on his lap as he slept. This scene alone would make any father, or mother far that matter, break down. If you have not seen the movie, just picture it in your head for one moment. Times have gotten so bad that you and your child are sleeping in a public bathroom to avoid sleeping out in the street......kind of makes those $20 trips to the salon/barber shop not seem like such a "need".

Chris and his son do eventually find an apartment together, after a chance encounter with a man who was cleaning his house when Gardner approached him. He made an offer to rent the place and even paint and clean it to get a discount (again, do what you gotta do to provide for your family). He talks about the first time the man handed him the keys to his apartment, and when he and his son where sitting on their steps. It wasn't the nicest apartment or the best neighborhood, but it was theirs. He describes how he felt when he first put the key in the lock and opened the door, and it reminded me of the first time I entered the apartment that my wife and I first got. We moved a lot when I was a kid for various reasons, so I know what he meant he was saying "this is mine" even though he was renting. It just feels so good :) The next morning as they are leaving, his son tells him, "daddy we forgot our bags". They normally had to carry all of their belonging with them everywhere they went since they did not know where they would be staying at any given time. He told him they wouldn't have to carry the bags anymore, they had a home.

In the end, Gardner and his son do persevere and he goes on to become a multimillionaire investor. the man went from this traumatic scene in his life; from being homeless, broke, hungry, sleeping in bathroom, unemployed, and in the gutter, to not having a single want that he can't go out and get. Gardner also donates a hefty sum to Glide Memorial every year, so he has not at all forgotten those that helped get him through the roughest of times. Give back to your community and help those who are now in need. Another good message.

There is one more scene in the movie that really touched me. When Will Smith, who plays Gardner and I think is a terrific actor, finally gets hired full time at Dean Witter, the tears start getting all ready to rush down. He composes himself and runs outside of the office building. There, surrounded by people walking around their daily lives [I think the people walking around him are supposed to be symbolic of those who take life for granted; this man who just came from nothing, landed a full time job and he could not be happier. He will never take anything for granted while those walking around him don't even notice him, they rush through their days and don't appreciate life for what it is or what it has to offer] , he has this look on his face like he doesn't quite know what to do with himself...he looks up and around, put his hands over his head and just starts clapping. He keeps clapping and tearing and just looks so damn happy, like "I made it, it's over, thank you Lord and I can finally give my son a home." Just the look on his face touched me, I could feel everything he was feeling, this adulation and euphoric feeling that is hard to describe. Some day dammit, that feeling will be mine.

This book is very inspirational and moving, I think every parent should read it just to keep thing perspective. It could be a lot worse, no matter how bad it may seem.

Thanks for reading guys

I Love you baby

Any comments on style for the review would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks

8 comments:

  1. Kahnee said...

    Man, that was a great intereview. It almost bought tears to my eyes. I never knew my father and I have some BIG father issues. I'm definitely gonna buy the book. Thanks for the review.  

  2. Rad said...

    Thanks Kahnee, I was afraid it was too long, but if I got even 1 person to read the story, then tis good :)

    Sorry about the tears, but don't let your father issues ever stop you from being a success (I have my own family issues that I'm still trying to work out). Work it out, hopefully this book provides some inspiration.

    Thanks for the comment.  

  3. Moneymonk said...

    I think this book is for any single parent: male or female that says it's too hard. There is no time like the present. Keep pushing yourself, regardless of what obtacles comes your way.

    I think now-a-days no one wants to sacrifice  

  4. Rad said...

    Money, thats very true. It seems that more and more people are less willing to sacrifice anything to get what they want. From weight loss to financial security, many people seem to be looking for the quick fix, when the answer lies in consistency and dedication to a program. You may have to sacrifice soem impulse spending or some chocolate cake (dammit!) lol, but you'll get there if you keep pushing.  

  5. savings said...

    I saw the movie and found it inspiring, but I'm sure the book was better. I would like to get around to reading it one of these days.  

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