4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is an inspirational autobiography written by Jorge P. Newbery. In addition to being an author, Newbery is also a successful businessman, investor, and athlete. This novel revolves around the main theme of perseverance and touches upon aspects of belonging, risk-taking, family, and love. Those aspects, combined with Newbery's witty writing style, make this story a highly engaging read.
"Burn zones", a term coined by the author, are periods of extra effort which separate the winners from the losers. Whenever Newbery goes through a particularly tough time in his life, he refers to it as a burn zone. I appreciate how the author included this term at the beginning of the novel as a clarifier.
The autobiography consists of ten sections written in chronological order. Each section focuses on a different period of Newbery’s life, usually involving a change in career. Readers witness his determination as he works his way up from his childhood job as a paperboy, to a Category I cyclist, and eventually manages to become a highly successful real estate mogul in adulthood. He perseveres through each burn zone he faces, each triumph bringing him newfound confidence, which leads to him making riskier decisions with his investments. What could go wrong?
Well, everything. It only takes one event for things to come crashing down. A Christmas Eve disaster drastically changes Jorge P. Newbery's life in a way he never expected it to. Despite his previous financial successes, he suddenly finds himself $26 million in debt. Thus, Newbery enters the ultimate burn zone. Feeling a new sense of vulnerability, he sets out on the journey of rebuilding his life from the ground up. Eventually, he realizes that there is only one person who can help him take control.
What I like most about this autobiography was the message it conveys. It emphasizes pushing through life's hard times with your head held high. When Jorge P. Newbery was at his lowest point, he did not quit. Despite everything that happened, he held on to his determination and emerged through his adversity, becoming an even stronger person.
Another aspect that I admire is the well-developed relationship between Newbery and his father. Throughout the story, the father-son moments are incredibly wholesome. Readers get to see their relationship blossom, with his father helping him get ice cream for his job to traveling to Argentina together later in his life. I found tears flowing down my face as I read the later exchanges between Newbery and his father. It caught me off guard, as many business-related autobiographies often lack emotion.
One thing that I did not like was the repeated use of large words. At the end of the novel, my notes consisted of about twenty words I did not know. I felt like the overuse of large words takes away from the novel. As a person with remarkably average vocabulary, I often had to stop reading and look up the definitions of words. I had to look up words such as "grommet", "indefatigable", "phalanx", and "propitious", for example. Also, I do not have a background in business, so I found it challenging to familiarize myself with the business jargon. I feel like this autobiography would benefit from footnotes to help explain some of the business-related terms.
I recommend this autobiography to anyone needing more motivation in their lives or prospective business students. It's important to note that this novel contains profanity and racial slurs. I caution readers who are sensitive to that.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this autobiography. After reading it, I find myself more aware of when I'm entering a burn zone and what I can do to push through. I happily give it 4 out of 4 stars. It is inspirational, engaging, and emotional. The ideas are well-developed and the characters are relatable. This autobiography seems professionally edited and I did not find any grammatical or spelling errors. Although the vocabulary was dense, it is possible that other readers would not have the same issues I did. It was more of a personal shortcoming, which was why I chose to give this full stars.
I wonder what else life has in store for Jorge P. Newbery.
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