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Vagabond Boy: Memoir of a Youth's Journey Through a Heartland of Chaos Paperback – December 7, 2012
About the Author
Joel Everett Harding has professional credentials in a variety of scientific fields, including river geomorphic restoration, bioengineering design, ecosystem ecology and animal and human behavior. He has been a scientist to private industry, federal, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. When he is not writing and otherwise working he spends his time in the Piedmont with his family photographing and painting the landscape, tending his gardens and koi pond. This is his first published book.
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He always persevered, despite his upbringing and lack of nurturing, and achieved a meaningful life with a rewarding career and a loving family. This author touchingly poured out his heart to us as he related his memories of a difficult childhood. This novel should be read by those who have had such dysfunction in their lives.His life story showed that, despite many hardships and childhood scars, the cycle that produced them could be broken, with enough perseverance and self-reliance. I would like to read a sequel relating the story of his later life. Kudos to this author on a story well- written!
Each chapter evoked a whole range of emotions... I laughed, i cried, and somtimes just sat in awe at the stories i was reading. Hard to imagine all the trials and tribulations that one family could endure... and despite all the hardships, manage to become productive members of society.
A truly inspiring book that should be on everyones "must read" list for 2013!
"Many young parents tend to start out with poorly-equipped kitchens containing only the barest essentials, often having inherited the equipment from their own parents. This can be a disadvantage for the livestock under their care but the natural motivational juices and resilience of boys and girls can sometimes compensate for these shortcomings, unless it becomes obvious that their caretakers have absolutely no business in the kitchen. In such cases the dish they produce may be unfit for even the simplest meal, let alone the grand banquet of life. Then salvaging the best that a child has to offer at the banquet to come depends upon other chefs and the inner resources of the child."
I laughed out loud and one point I cried. He is magic with words and I wish EVERY PARENT could read this. Every parent. It was captivating, moving, and my goodness I can't figure out how to leave a review good enough to entice you to take a chance and read this. One line that made me laugh out loud during a touching a sad scene about his mother was this: "...she only punished me when I needed it, like when I threw a hammer at my brother." I think I've fallen in love with this author's words. I've never read anything quite so soul-stirring.
To be at the dusk of your life and, when confronted with mortality, to comprehend that you did not truly live as you realize you should have, but as you thought you should have or were forced to terrifies me. Vagabond Boy brought me to this soul stirring epiphany. I feel like I owe this author a favor because, as I read, my very heart was somehow pulled into the journey and somehow it changed me a little. I could go on and on about why you should read it and tell you all about the wayfaring but I'd like to tell you this instead: don't discover that you have forced a way of life upon yourself or your youth because you feel that is what you need or deserve or whatnot. I say to you, live. Look. Look at the colors everywhere, hope Ali Babba doesn't attack you and reflect on how impossibly fast mothers are. Moms are like rabid animals when you make them angry but his renderings of such things are EPIC. When his mother catches him and how, you will actually enter the child's world and leave yours. Fact. AND you will laugh.
Vagabond Boy is about more than living or traveling or discovering or dying, it's about that little thing inside of your human body called a soul. This author left a piece of his life here and even the trials and pain are written in such a way that when the book is finished it will, WILL, have forever touched you.
I felt every emotion a book could reap from me; humor, sadness, worry, all of it.
I implore you to read the first free excerpt from Amazon (click on the cover) and when I say its gets even better, it does. I had more fun reading this book than I did reading Terry Goodkind's Confessor!! Just so you know, that means A LOT.
Two more excerpts so you can have a taste of how the author can bring you into a scene (this is a hospital scene):
"Our regular bedtime hour arrived, but I wasn't able to sleep after the lights were turned out. I just laid there worrying. When the nurse came in later she noticed me still awake and said she would see if she could find something to help me sleep. She came back later with a pill and made me roll over. Then I felt the pill pushed up my behind like a turd going the wrong way. I didn't like it at all and figured the nurse was new and didn't know that pills should be swallowed with water like the St. Joseph's Aspirin my mother used to give me at home. I told the nurse to ask Bea to show her how pills should be given, but she left the room without answering me. Soon I went to sleep."
(a few paragraphs later, I don't want to ruin it for you)
"My mind catapulted awake in absolute terror and I was screaming that there was no air to breathe. I knew I was dying and would absolutely be dead in the next second if I couldn't find a breath. Blackness and panic enveloped me and I started thrashing from side to side. My body bucked in the blackness, demanding a breath, and I tried with all my strength to sit up but something stronger was pressing on my face and I couldn't lift my head up even an inch. Then I felt something pushing against my chest that was preventing me from sitting up. I tried to scream again but no sound came out. My heart pounded in my ears and felt like it was about to burst as though I had stayed underwater too long and the black water was rushing in. I'd be gone in the next second and now that second was here as the terror flooded through me and I choked and gagged..."
In the interest of full disclosure I received a digital copy of this book from the author for review. Second disclosure: I attended high school with the author's brother, who first alerted me to Joel's book and asked if I would read it for possible endorsement. So I approached this book with some anticipation--after all, it was written about people and places I knew. I also approached it with trepidation because frankly, self-published books--memoirs especially--are a tossup as to quality of writing and editing. You never know what you will get.
"Vagabond Boy" is a total gem. The editing is superb--no typos or glitches to distract from what is happening on the pages. The writing is poetic, painting such vivid pictures of people and places that you are sure you have been there. The scene of those two little boys by the side of the road broke my heart and continues to evoke emotion days after reading it. In lighter moments, I relived my own childhood as I read about familiar icons of the 1950s and 60s. But always, under the surface, ran a certain darkness. Joel's story shows both the dark and the light sides of humanity. In the end, for me, the story speaks of the power of love. Of a brother's love for his siblings and the redemptive power of love to overcome the darkness.
Once I began to read, I could not set it aside for long. I found "Vagabond Boy" to be as beautifully written and as soul stirring as Leif Enger's "Peace Like a River." I am sure that others with a more analytical bent could explain more fully all the layers to the story. All I know is that it works. That I laughed and I cried and a day after finishing it I am still profoundly moved by what I read.