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Hole in My Life Paperback – August 26, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (August 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374430896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374430894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I find myself moving like a knife, carving my way around people, cutting myself out of their picture and leaving nothing of myself behind but a hole." A gaping hole of misery is what popular young adult author Jack Gantos remembers when he thinks back to 1972, "the bleakest year of my life." Just 20 years old, Gantos was in a medium security prison for his participation in a get-rich-quick drug scam. Scared silly by the violence he saw around him daily, Gantos's only lifeline was a battered copy of The Brothers Karamazov, which he painstakingly turned into an impromptu journal by scratching his own thoughts into the tiny spaces between the lines. There, he recorded both his fears and his dream of someday writing a book of his own. Before prison, Gantos had penned a scattered myriad of journals, but had never been able to pull them together into a cohesive narrative. It was during his time behind bars that he found himself growing into a focused, diligent writer who eschewed drugs for the bigger high of watching his words fill the hole once and for all.

Gantos, best known for his award-winning Joey Pigza titles, mines darker material here that is as deeply compelling as his lighter fare. Using short, meaty sentences, Gantos manages to write in a way that dismisses the dubious "romance" of prison, drugs, and "life on the edge" without ever sounding didactic or heavy-handed. Older teens will appreciate his candor and sheer willingness to give them the straight story. Vigorously recommended. (Ages 13 and older) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

After penning a number of novels for preteens, including the Joey Pigza books and the Jack series, Gantos makes a smooth transition as he addresses an older audience. He uses the same bold honesty found in his fiction to offer a riveting autobiographical account of his teen years and the events may well penetrate the comfort zone of even the most complacent young adults. The memoir begins with the dramatic image of the author as a young convict ("When I look at my face in the photo I see nothing but the pocked mask I was hiding behind"). The book then goes on to provide an in-depth examination of the sensitive and intelligent boy residing behind a tough facade. Inspired by the words and lives of some of his favorite American authors, Gantos sought adventure after leaving high school. He eagerly agreed to help smuggle a shipment of hashish from Florida to New York without giving thought of the possible consequences. Knowing that the narrator is destined to land in jail keeps suspense at a high pitch, but this book's remarkable achievement is the multiple points of view that emerge, as experiences force a fledgling writer to continually revise his perspective of himself and the world around him. The book requires a commitment, as it rambles a bit at times, but it provides much food for thought and fuel for debate. It will leave readers emotionally exhausted and a little wiser. Ages 12-up.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book was written very well.
Justin Norris
I have a reason for liking this book; I can relate to some of the things he has done in his life and always wanted to do something like what he did in the story.
patrick
There's much for young people to learn from Gantos's story, and accolades are deserved for his candid telling.
Gail Cooke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By TexasReader on March 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I first need to confess that I know Jack Gantos and have been a fan of his writing for more than 20 years. This made it particularly difficult to read a book about a painful period in his life. However, this is Jack's best writing and is a story that many teenagers (who believe themselves to be invincible) need to read. It is also first and foremost a compelling story that will be hard for anyone to stop reading. Even knowing that all ends well (Jack is an award-winning, highly successful writer), the suspense remains high. It is a harsh tale, and the descriptions of prison life are brutal (as they should be) but ultimately it is a story of a life redeemed. Highly recommended!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am a children's librarian who read this book and could hardly put it down. I read my (non children's librarian) husband a couple of paragraphs, and he grabbed it the second I was done. He inhaled it and gave it to his best friend, who does not read children's books. The best friend loved it and cannot understand why it is called a young adult novel. He thinks it is great reading for everyone!
A wonderful read by an intriguing, and obviously stubborn and incredibly gifted human being.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 23, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
Popular children's book author and National Book Award finalist, Jack Gantos, now offers a compelling story taken from his own life. It is appropriate that we should hear this in his voice.
Some thirty years ago Gantos dreamed of becoming a writer - a dream that seemed far-fetched as he was cash poor and a drone in a job that was going nowhere.
Quite foolishly the young man made a grab for ten thousand dollars by helping to sail a hashish bearing ship from the Virgin Islands to New York City. Once there, he and his pals sold the drug until they were caught. End result? The young Gantos was sentenced to up to six years in jail.
Yet from what was probably the lowest point in his life the author was able to more than salvage himself; he was almost reborn. Once confined in a cell he made his dream of becoming a writer a reality as he toiled with paper and pen.
There's much for young people to learn from Gantos's story, and accolades are deserved for his candid telling.
- Gail Cooke
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Brown on December 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
All writers have pasts, before they write the books for which they become known & respected. Before Jack Gantos wrote his children's books (which, by the way, are brilliant, energetic & absorbing reads!) he had to get some experience in living.
Not many of us would have chosen the fork in the road which Jack Gantos took, faced with a desperate need for cash for college where he hoped to become "a writer." As a naive smuggler, his career didn't last long. It is, however, out of that struggle & ultimate confinement in prison, that the writer I so enjoy, grew, with his unique, taut & restless language.
A super memoir of a youth well spent on ill-gotten gains. Of the chances he got to take other forks in the road on his way to redemption. He paid his dues, did his work, & then got on with his life as a writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Volz on March 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is so wonderfully written. As others have said, it is an unflinching self-examination. Gantos freely acknowledges his own shortcomings. Better still, he does not self-aggrandize his transition from drifting slacker to convict to living the life he imagined for himself. And he does another rare thing: he communicates the real joy he has found in life without romanticizing or going over the top.

Gantos also doesn't flinch from the reality of his prison life. Again without sensationalizing, Gantos includes the topics of prison homosexuality, rape, and violence. These topics occupy a very small percentage of the account, but make your reading/buying choice accordingly if you have a zero tolerance approach, can't skip a few paragraphs, etc.

I haven't read any of Gantos' fiction, but this made me want to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Whole In My Life

By Jack Gantos

In Jack Gantos's memoir, Whole In My Life, he describes how he is an average student and an avid reader and wants to become a writer. Caught up in trying to earn money for college, Gantos makes huge mistakes by taking drugs and alcohol and smuggling drugs. I chose this book because it looked like an interesting story. The most important parts of the book are Gantos wanting to become a writer by reading as much as he could, smuggling drugs, and how he turns himself around in prison. As a result of these events, Gantos learns from his mistakes and becomes a better person and a better writer.

One of the most important themes in this memoir is that Gantos is very fond of reading books and wants to become a writer, but can't because of his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Gantos always has a stack of books next to him wherever he goes. Gantos also has dreams of becoming a writer and always keeps a daily journal but can't quite organize it into a story. "I could write stuff down all day, but I could never seem to organize it into anything worth reading (pg.21)." This is an important event because Gantos' inability to organize his thoughts prevents him from becoming a real writer. He realizes when he is in prison that his drug and alcohol abuse is the reason he can't organize his thoughts and become a writer.

One of the biggest mistakes in Gantos's life was smuggling drugs. I think that Gantos made a poor decision just based on the money that was in it for him. "All I heard was the number-ten thousand dollars, cash. This was the jackpot. The answer I was looking for. My exit from St. Croix and my entrance into whatever good school would have me (pg.69.).
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