Leader of the Pack by Matt Sweetwood
To all single parents out there (not just Dads) Leader of the Pack by Matt Sweetwood, should be required reading before you embark on your own journey of trying to raise children without a loving and caring spouse beside you. Matt, found himself in an abusive and destructive relationship when he married the beautiful and beguiling Charlotte. A man tortured by his own low self-esteem who manages to rationalise his own awful behaviour and neglect of his children’s needs by assuring himself that he is lucky to have gotten Charlotte to even look at him, let alone marry him (Phew! Haven’t we all been there!) It takes Matt, his family and his finances to reach the lowest nadir before he finally wakes up and takes action to deal with this abusive wife and mother. He learns a lot about himself during this long journey into the depths of “hell”, but does he learn enough to stop himself from making the same mistake all over again, the second time around?
Leader of the Pack is the most powerful personal memoir I’ve read in a very long time. Perhaps it was because the circumstances Matt describes hit so close to home for me, but nevertheless, one can but admire the author’s courage in bringing this, much too common problem, out into the light and exposing the insanity of his thought processes that led him down the road he travelled. I found the narrative of this harrowing tale so compelling I literally could not stop reading it. Readers will groan in disbelief at places and shout at the main character (Matt himself!) asking; “what were you thinking?” but all through it, the man’s simple desire to just be happy and to raise his five children the best way he can, comes shining through. Although this is specifically about Male solo dads and that is part of Matt’s advocacy, many of the circumstances faced by Matt are equally applicable to both sexes in a violent, abusive, co-dependent relationship. If I could give this book more than five stars, I surely would. Congratulations on such a frank and honest memoir, Matt Sweetwood.
Straining Forward - Minh Fuong Towner's Story by Michelle Layer Rahal
Author Michelle Layer Rahal has brought us a stunningly honest and frank portrayal of the life of a Vietnamese boat person, in the 1970’s. In Straining Forward we read the biography of Minh Phuong Towner, as she is caught up in the tumultuous events of the Vietnam War, or the American War, as the Vietnamese called it. Told through the eyes of Minh herself as if an autobiography, it covers the full gamut of Minh’s life. Born into a relatively middle-class environment in Saigon, Minh had all the advantages of wealth and position and in many ways was immune to what was happening outside of Saigon, in the rest of Vietnam. This all changed though on New Year’s Eve 1968, when the Tet Offensive brought the war directly into her quiet, suburban neighbourhood. Having watched the deaths of her beloved Father and several of her siblings, at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Minh and her brother make a dash for freedom, that leads them on an horrific journey, including torture, detainment in prison, escape, a dangerous sea journey and finally from a refugee camp in Taiwan, to France, Australia and ultimately the United States. Minh, though, is deeply traumatised by her childhood and this trauma will be something she will carry for the rest of her life and will influence her decisions and behaviour forever.
Although Straining Forward is presented, by Michelle Layer Rahal, as a spiritual journey, a search for meaning in life and a relationship with God, it would be wrong to dismiss it as just another Christian testimony. There is much more to this book than just its spiritual nature. It is truly an eye-opener on the effect of war on children, on refugees and what childhood trauma can do to a person later in life. I particularly enjoyed the story of Minh’s life in Vietnam, after the North’s invasion. The trials that tested her, she faced with stoicism and bravery, but what they did was remove her self-belief and her self-esteem. She truly believed that she was unworthy of being loved and gravitated towards safety and security, rather than happiness, as her first objective always. That this become apparent much later in life, when she understood that in many ways she had turned into her cold, calculating mother, without her even realising it. This is an extremely powerful story and one that grasps both the frailties of the human person and celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over immense challenges. One cannot read Minh Phong Tower’s story and fail to be moved by the tragedy of her life, but also by her indomitability and her determination to succeed, even in the face of overwhelming odds. This is a story that lingers long in the mind after reading and it is something I can truly recommend anyone feeling down or depressed should read. “There, but for the grace of God, go I!”
Riding For The Brand by Lawrence H. Lee
Riding For The Brand by Lawrence H. Lee is an autobiography of the working life of Larry Lee, of Western Airlines on the West Coast of the USA. Larry started at Western Airlines in the early days, at the age of just sixteen, as a junior stock clerk and through his over forty years of service he rose, through the ranks, to be, at various times, President, Chairman and CEO of Western Airlines. He oversaw the airline through its most difficult period that struck all airlines in the US, during deregulation of the air, in the 1980’s. At times, just days away from declaring bankruptcy, Lee, with his dogged determination, his love of Western and his belief in the people at the airline, he cajoled, managed and inspirationally led Western out of the mire and into profit. Resigning prior to Western’s eventual demise, with merger to Delta airline, this book tells the story of an upright, moral man determined to make a mark in the company and the industry he loved.
It became clear, after finishing Riding For The Brand, that Lawrence H. Lee and his beloved wife Margie are no longer with us, both having passed away, within months of each other in 2017, after an incredible 70 years of marriage. As a tribute, I assume by their children, to their father, the publication of this book could not be a more fitting record of what can be achieved with grit, determination and belief, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Although some might find passages of the book to by a little dry, I don’t count myself as one of those. There are plenty of humorous and fascinating anecdotes to keep the reader amused and as an insight into the rarefied world of both the airline industry and large corporations, I found this book to be both insightful and fascinating. Ultimately though, this story is about one man, a man of courage and conviction who was not only prepared to put his beliefs on the line, but also had faith in others around him to follow his lead. Lawrence H. Lee was a wonderful business leader and a decent human being. This book is a fitting tribute to the man, his story and the airline that he loved with a passion.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME