4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is a memoir about the entrepreneurial life of author Jorge P. Newbery. Newbery launched his first business venture as a young boy delivering papers for two newspaper companies at the same time. As an adult he competed as a cyclist, became a self-taught real estate expert, and eventually established himself as a millionaire in the housing development sector before losing everything and learning the life lessons that would allow him to rebuild from scratch.
I found myself quickly drawn into this memoir. Newbery’s writing style is thoughtful and informative, his determination to keep moving forward and helping people is positive, and his focus on family and important relationships is warm and inspiring. Many readers will find his experience with challenging business and debt situations to be motivating and helpful.
One of the most engaging parts of the book is the section where Newbery describes his efforts to develop Woodland Meadows, a housing complex that was almost beyond repair. Newbery and his team worked to provide livable conditions for the residents, provided job training to help locals find safe and viable career paths to support their families, and even created a “community patrol” to keep their area safe without calling in the often-inflammatory local law enforcement. It is so inspiring that someone who had been so successful as a businessman would dedicate such effort to making a difference instead of just focusing on making money.
I had a harder time with some of the financial and legal matters discussed in the business part of the memoir. There is a long section of chapters in the second half of the book that describes the years following the ice storm that destroyed Woodland Meadows. These chapters explain the process that led to Newbery’s massive debt. While this is an essential part of his life story, I found this section difficult to follow. Possibly this is an intentional stylistic choice made by the author, since I am sure anyone living through such a nightmare would feel overwhelmed by the confusing laws and conflicting advice given by authorities, not to mention the stacks of paperwork involved in such processes. I would also caution readers that this book contains a very limited use of profanity.
I would recommend Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands to readers looking for inspiration to carry through their own hard times, as well as to readers who enjoy uplifting memoirs. This book is extremely well edited, and I would rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
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