A touching memoir of a truly miserable childhood. That Bouman could write of his life of abuse in Michigan and make it sound like fun is the mark of a man who has completely come to terms with the higher plan for his life. It may have taken him more than two decades to discover it, but when he did, he embraced it and became a man with a mission. His writing is matter-of-fact and in no way an attempt to purge the pain of living with a father who treated him like an imbecile incapable of anything and regularly beat him and his brother. Somehow, the author manages to describe a life that, between beatings, would seem attractive to most boys. When Bouman was young, his father put an airplane engine in a VW to make a carplane, and he opened up a shooting range on their 11-acre land and purchased a massive boat. He also bought a tank, which just about everyone thought was the coolest thing ever. He actually let the boys drive the tank, and it proved useful for putting out fires and demolishing unwanted buildings. Bouman seems to be trying to paint a more pleasant picture of his childhood, but the facts of the beatings and the demolition of any character he might have developed seep through. Later on, substance abuse threatened to end his military career, until someone invited him to church. Who knows why such things appear just as a soul is sinking into the abyss? Religion changed him, and he eventually found his wife and opened an orphanage in Cambodia in the early 1990s, where he finally discovered the profit of his upbringing. This immensely inspiring story shows how Bouman tore success from defeat. Never preachy or self-pitying, just an honest story well written and well told.
A memoir as weighty, heartbreaking, and shocking as Pat Conroy’s The Great Santiti. . . Bizarre and unpredictable, Bouman’s memoir transcends the normal tropes of the redemption tale and becomes a testament to the power of human fortitude and forgiveness.