Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review - Free Spirit: Growing Up On The Road and Off The Grid by Joshua Safran

About The Book:

An Unforgettable Journey Through an Unconventional Childhood

When Joshua Safran was four years old, his mother--determined to protect him from the threats of nuclear war and Ronald Reagan--took to the open road with her young son, leaving the San Francisco countercultural scene behind. Together they embarked on a journey to find a utopia they could call home. In Free Spirit, Safran tells the harrowing, yet wryly funny story of his childhood chasing this perfect life off the grid--and how they survived the imperfect one they found instead.
Encountering a cast of strange and humorous characters along the way, Joshua spends his early years living in a series of makeshift homes, including shacks, teepees, buses, and a lean-to on a stump. His colorful youth darkens, however, when his mother marries an alcoholic and abusive guerrilla/poet.
Throughout it all, Joshua yearns for a "normal" life, but when he finally reenters society through school, he finds "America" a difficult and confusing place. Years spent living in the wilderness and discussing Marxism have not prepared him for the Darwinian world of teenagers, and he finds himself bullied and beaten by classmates who don't share his mother's belief about reveling in one's differences.
Eventually, Joshua finds the strength to fight back against his tormentors, both in school and at home, and helps his mother find peace. But Free Spirit is more than just a coming-of age story. It is also a journey of the spirit, as he reconnects with his Jewish roots; a tale of overcoming adversity; and a captivating read about a childhood unlike any other.

My Thoughts:

"Free Spirit" is a fascinating and powerful memoir of a young boy who had all the odds against him, thanks to a less-than-stellar mother, and managed to survive to become an accomplished and stable adult.

That being said, this was also a very frustrating book as well.  At times I just wanted to leap into the pages and give Joshua's mother, Claudia, a shaking at times, a slapping at others.  I realize that Joshua probably didn't write this book to intentionally present his mother in a harsh light, but his brutal honesty in presenting his story of his childhood just made me furious at his mother - how could she put her child through all this?

Joshua Safran's startling frank and brilliant written story is one that will evoke many emotions for the reader - compassion, admiration, and yes, anger. By the end of the book, I was so proud for Joshua for surviving his very untraditional childhood and cheered when he vowed to not let his own children experience the things that were forced upon him.

I highly recommend this memoir! It is a book that you won't soon forget.

About The Author:

Joshua Safran is an attorney, writer, speaker, and occasional rabbi, and was featured in the award-winning documentary Crime After Crime, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and had its television debut as part of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)'s Documentary Film Club.

He is a nationally recognized champion for women's rights and a zealous advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. For his work he has received national media coverage and numerous awards. He lives in Oakland, California.

Check out his website at www.jsafran.com

My thanks to BookSparks PR for providing the review copy of this book.  I was not compensated for my opinion.

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Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific review, Sharon!

Rita_h said...

Oh my, what an intense memoir. I love to read memoirs of "ordinary folks" so I will put this on my wishlist. I'm glad he grew up to be a secure, well-centered man.