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Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets Hardcover – March 17, 2009

32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Writer, veteran and native Manhattanite Cadillac Man exposes the hidden world of the homeless in this riveting collection of stories from his sixteen years on the streets of New York City. Following the heartbreaking deterioration of his marriage, Cadillac finds himself wandering New York with no destination, comforted by the memories of his young daughter and haunted by his failures. With an uncanny sense of humor and invention, Cadillac uses everyday objects most take for granted (soda cans, discarded beach chairs, toy wagons) to build a life for himself, literally, from the ground up. Cadillac guides readers through streets most people don't (or choose not to) see, introducing the outcasts he comes to value most: singers, teen runaways, pimps, prostitutes and a few unlikely angels. Excruciating details of fist-fights and romantic escapades leave little to the imagination, rendering Cadillac's world intimate, scary and touching; it becomes clear that his survival and sanity depend not only on crafty methods of making money, but also on journaling (excerpts from which have appeared in Esquire magazine). A surprising find, Cadillac lets readers in on a rarely seen community, revealing the compassionate hearts that beat even in the most despairing circumstances.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The army veteran known as Cadillac Man began living on the streets of New York in 1994 and has been there ever since. His memoir is vulgar, sexually explicit (occasionally), and written in a style that ranges from polished to awkward. It is also, from first page to last, tragic, comic, dramatic, and emotionally charged. Cadillac Man describes his life on the streets in precise detail: how to survive, how to eat, how to keep clean and warm. His world is frequently bleak, naturally, but the bleakness is punctuated by moments of surprising humor and joy and by encounters with an assortment of strange and wonderfully interesting people, some of whom feel like they’ve stepped off the pages of the Great American Novel. In fact, the book feels, from time to time, as though it could be a novel, prompting the reader to wonder if Cadillac Man is engaging in a bit of “creative autobiography.” On the other hand, who’s to say everything didn’t happen just the way he says it did? Either way, the book is a vivid portrait of the life of a street person. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914063
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By missellany on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A friend recommended this book and once I started it, I couldn't put it down. I guess for me, like for most people, homeless people were always just part of the landscape. Cadillac Man shows us what day to day life is like on the streets. He's not coming at you with a message; he's just telling stories, the way he would if you sat down with him for coffee for a few hours. He's funny and warm and a natural storyteller. Life on the streets is hard, of course, but it's also full of adventure and even has its hilarious moments. The episodes with the character Chocolate Milk, for example, are hysterical. And the story of "Penny," the girlfriend he finds on the streets, is heartbreaking.

Cadillac Man also makes you understand how a person can end up on the streets. He might not have made the same choices another person would make, but you can really understand how the streets make sense for him. He has an enormous heart and a tremendously compassionate soul, and he quickly comes to love and protect "his people" on the streets. This book makes you realize the depths of experience and suffering and endurance that every homeless person must possess.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Lastic on June 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A well told, expertly edited first person account of street homelessness, Cadillac tells it like it is and as it happened according to daily journals he has kept for over a decade. A must-read certainly to the end.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Smith on May 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a quick read, which is good, because I DID find it hard to put down. Poignant stories - well written by a very sensitive man. I felt like I was right there with him. Interesting insights into life on the streets of New York City. I found this book well worth my time. (Reviewer is a 65 yr. old male.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg Smith on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw the book signing lecture tour on C-Span Book TV...before the show had finished, I had ordered this copy of the book.

Even though I knew what to expect, I was totally floored by the impact of this autobiography. It inspired so many feelings in me that I had to ration my reading of it. Just when I thought I could take it, Cadillac Man would lead me deeper into his life. Ultimately, I couldn't take it. I just couldn't. I never realized such misery existed within the hearts of our country's homeless, and I also never realized how brave and how strong someone had to be to endure it. I learned a lot of things from this book...a lot about what it truly means to be human.

Nobody can read this book without loving Tom, the Cadillac Man. His empathy for others, his courage in the face of his feelings of loss and sadness, and his strength to keep going, all the while praying to The Boss (Cadillac Man's name for God) to end his misery, is something I will surely never forget.

There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book regarding his lack of writing skills. Yet the prose itself, while not as polished as some, flowed smoothly, exhibiting no glaring flaws of syntax or grammar, and effectively portrayed the content of this man's life, in a way that I found very satisfying and highly inspiring. The writing is just fine. The story, however, is staggering in its intensity...and is destined to stand the test of time as a remarkable testimony to the strength and glory of one human spirit.

I hope to meet Cadillac Man someday, on the Other Side. And I am sure he will be the soul who shines more brightly than all the others. It is then I will thank him properly for all the things he has taught me through this book.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very excited to read this book after seeing the author interviewed on NY1. I was extremely disappointed. I just had a hard time believing it. Here is a guy living on the streets, who refuses money. When he gets money he throws it in a church poor box, all the other homeless people look to him like a savior, he is a protector of prostitutes and their pimp is his great friend. He was like the super hero of the homeless. I just couldn't believe what I was reading.

In one scene he is sitting with some prostitutes, who consider him their guardian, and Chocolate Milk the pimp comes along, grabs Cadillac Man, rips his wallet from his pants pocket(ripping his pants pocket off)and takes his last three dollars and replaces it with a wad of money...for looking after his girls. Amazing.

This same pimp is sitting in a dinner with some of his girls and the Cadillac Man. They are having a grand old time laughing and joking, when in comes a mother with her children and is obviously down and out. Chocolate Milk proceeds to whisper something to the wait-staff who then starts bringing out a smorgasbord of food to the mother's table. Then he slams a wad of money on the table and walks out with his entourage in tears. This is better than a fairy tale.

I was expecting a chilling tale of life on the streets and how different and hard life could be for certain individuals but instead got a tale of the gallant Cadillac Man parading around the city rescuing his fellow homeless, paying his own way, protecting prostitutes and befriending the pimp from heaven.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Darcia Helle VINE VOICE on August 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
I was disappointed in this book. I expected a gritty tale, showing us the truth of what life is like for the homeless. I was hoping for an enlightened look at how average people find themselves on the street, and how difficult it is to find help once there. That is shown here to a small degree, but I found the story almost comically slanted throughout. Cadillac Man portrays himself as the superhero of the streets. When people give him money, he passes it on to the church or other people in need. He refuses to take food or handouts from store owners. Indeed, he watches out for and takes care of all the lost souls, while turning his back on his own daughter.

This leads me to the second reason I found this book impossible to like. Cadillac Man tells us quite honestly that he likes being on the streets. He loves the freedom. He loves not having to answer to a boss or a wife. He does what he wants, when he wants. His reasons for walking out on his family are shallow at best. He would have us believe he is altruistic, helping all his street friends and expecting nothing in return. Yet he leaves his young daughter without a father and without any financial help.

Sadly, I think this book reinforces some people's beliefs that the homeless are on the streets because they want to be. While that is true for some, and certainly it is for Cadillac Man, it is not true for most. This book is a hindrance to all the people who have lost their jobs and their homes, who have no family and nowhere to go, who can't get a job or state aid because they have no address. To me, Cadillac Man is simply a guy who ran from responsibility and is now being glamorized by his own self-indulged words.
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