4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is an autobiographical novel by Jorge P. Newbery, encompassing almost 50 years, starting in 1973, when he — as a kid of 11— started a business in Los Angeles, up to his present status in life after hurdling the many burn zones. “Burn Zone” is the metaphoric allusion of Newbery to the trying times of his life. When as a cyclist, he pointed out that the burn zone was analogous to the long climb, arduously negotiated by the bikers — which tried their strength and endurance — and effectively puts the majority of them out of contention for a win in the race.
By the way, Newbery raced bicycles for a living after having been a newspaper delivery boy, an ice-cream trike vendor, a busboy, and a mogul of the music recording industry. Sadly, his cycling adventure culminated in failure, presumably due to an unmitigated burn zone along his route, so he diverted his course towards the real estate. In which case he became a loan officer, after which he was made the branch manager of a mortgage company. Thereafter, he put up his own mortgage company. While still living with his parents and with a Spartan way of life, Newbery accumulated a considerable amount of savings which he used to buy neglected properties and successfully renovating them into productive and profitable assets. This way, he amassed 4,000 apartment units across the United States, resulting in net worth in the tens of millions. He had been a risk-taker, thinking he could surmount any burn zone, until he took one chance too many.
I liked that Newbery related all his triumphs and failures matter-of-factly, analyzing his faults with the intent to learn therefrom. This way, his wrongdoing becomes a learning experience. Perhaps, it could be attributed to misfortune that Newbery had to contend with bureaucracy taking advantage of a natural disaster that had weakened him before they pounced on him. As for his triumphs, those were not intended, and he deferred gratification. He just wanted to help, having seen the good in people, trusting in people, and has given jobs to less-experienced but more eager candidates, in hopes that they rose to the occasion. Additionally, he was optimistic that his expectations could be met, and his attitude vindicated. I found it ironic, though, that while he showed people the easy road, he was quite tough on himself, working 18 hours a day if needed.
Chapter 8 sees Newbery taking time off from his entrepreneurial exploits to talk about his love life. He made a romantic episode of the chapter — the courtship, the proposal, and the wedding — then devoted Chapter 9 to family matters. I thought the hiatus took some steam off from the novel’s driving engine until he resumed to Chapter 10 for the closure of the novel. Anyway, I could say that the enjoyment that the novel provided did not diminish. I will give Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands a rating of 4 out of 4 stars anytime.
The well-written and the well-edited narrative is as informative as it is entertaining. There are lessons to be learned, and wisdom to be gained. The young adults, in their own journey in life, could profit from the knowledge, without having to undergo the experience and the pain themselves. Likewise, enterprising individuals, young and old, could be forewarned of the pitfalls attendant to an undertaking of this sort, and, hopefully, history could be prevented from repeating itself.
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