I have read many memoirs and this one is, by far, the most...well...memorable. Willie wants the world to know his story, maybe so he can clear his conscience or maybe so he can help others avoid the mistakes he made. But Willie has a big problem. He can barely tell his story in proper English, let alone write it down.
Enter Christine Keleny, author and compassionate soul. She spends countless hours with Willie to decipher his attempts at his own notes and listens to his stories. The result is this incredible book, which is a true collaboration between a lost soul trying to find his way and an insightful, skilled writer able to present Willie's life to us in his unique "Willie" voice. She does the work of organizing his story, narrating parts of it while translating others, asking questions I wanted answered, and sharing her reflections about her journey with this man so different from her.
Through Keleny's gift of knowing when to let Willie do the talking and when to let her own voice shine through, I came to understand the roller coaster life of a drug addict and a convict. I found him both admirable and despicable, endearing and aggravating; in other words, Keleny made him human.
This was not an easy book to read, but it was an important book to read.
Willie's story is one that we rarely hear told so honestly. Poverty, violence, misguided searches for love and acceptance, drugs, crime, recovery, broken support systems, falling back into destructive patterns, finding hope in the smallest of places...these are the pieces of Willie's life you will read about.
But there is another reason to read this book. It illustrates the best in humanity--the kindness that one person can offer to another by giving the gift of time and talent to make an unlikely dream come true. Because of Keleny's willingness to do the hard work of collaborating with a man who didn't make it easy, that man's dream of having his story told to the world was realized.
I truly hope the world gets to hear his story.
(reviewed the day of purchase)