4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In racing, burn zones are the areas that make or a break a winner – the times of extra difficulty that separate the front runners and the serious players. Similar to the sport, life itself has certain burn zones, and it is how we respond to these as individuals that determine how we come out of them. It is this concept that Jorge P. Newbery discusses in his autobiographical novel, Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands. Telling his story of extreme successes and even more extreme setbacks, Newbery’s journey as a real estate mogul presents a very real take on sudden, unforeseen financial hardships and how to overcome them.
To be sure, Jorge P. Newbery is a driven businessman and has been that way from a very young age. The beginning of the book follows Newbery through his early business ventures, setting up a pattern of increasing risks that he chased through life to gain larger rewards. While the novel reads like an inspirational text, it is actually a map of the poor business decisions and unnecessary hazards Jorge caused for himself and suffered from. While he spins his hardships as unforeseen occurrences that he then had to bounce back from, they actually seem more like inevitable consequences of bad purchases and poor management. The "bad hands" he is playing were dealt by himself. That is not to say that this novel isn’t inspirational in its own way; it is just not your average feel-good, self-help book.
The thing I liked most about this novel is that it feels very real. He describes each stage of his life in such a straightforward way, that it is easy to put yourself in his shoes. For anyone who grew up in Southern California, his descriptions of riding his bicycle through the pouring rain seems nostalgic. His assertion of how he still feared his parents’ reactions to his public persona at age 33 and his father’s insistence on still calling him “Jorgie” will also hit close to home for many readers. The not-so-traditional relationship he has with his wife Verria will warm your heart as he describes himself as “loved and in love.” Newbery shows a very honest picture of his life, and it is very easy to relate to the moments that make your heart swell and the ones that make your stomach fall. I think this is the real testament to how effective this book is, and for this reason I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
The thing I liked least about this novel is actually something I have an issue with for a lot of memoirs: embellishment of details in memories. I appreciate that the author still has to strive to make the novel interesting, and so when relating specific events, they want to tell the story with all the gusto they remember it with. However, to me, when events that took place 20 years ago are being presented with detail down to individual actions and statements, it seems unbelievable. This makes me start to question the reliability of the rest of the information being presented by the narrator. I do not rate the book lower because of this, because I feel it may be my personal interpretation of a certain writing style.
Burn Zones is a quick, easy, and interesting read, and I think it appeals to a wide variety of readers. One thing is obvious throughout Newbery’s writing, and that is the fact that he really cares about people, which was a big driver for the decisions he made, good and bad. He is an idealist and has an exceptional way of turning his dreams into realities. Anyone who can appreciate these qualities will enjoy this very well-edited, encouraging, and refreshing memoir.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon