Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Breakfast at Sally's

Breakfast at Sally's
Ruta Sepetys

Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey

Genre: Memoir

Summary (from Goodreads): One day, Richard LeMieux had a happy marriage, a palatial home, and took $40,000 Greek vacations. The next, he was living out of a van with only his dog, Willow, for company. This astonishingly frank memoir tells the story of one man's resilience in the face of economic disaster. Penniless, a failed suicide, estranged from his family, and living "the vehicular lifestyle" in Washington state, LeMieux chronicles his journey from the Salvation Army kitchens to his days with "C"—a philosopher in a homeless man's clothing—to his run-ins with Pastor Bob and other characters he meets on the streets. Along the way, he finds time to haunt public libraries and discover his desire to write.

LeMieux's quiet determination and his almost pious willingness to live with his situation are only a part of this politically and socially charged memoir. The real story of an all-too-common American condition, this is a heartfelt and stirring read.

Review: I am of two minds about this book.  On the one hand, it is a well-written, relatively easy to read book about homelessness, a subject that most Americans never really think about.  The author brings to life many different types of homeless people, including women and children and entire families.  He presents some of the reasons why people face homelessness, including depression and other mental health issues, and touches on the difficulties that the destitute can face in trying to find an affordable place to live.  In short, he encourages readers to address their own thoughts and stereotypes about the homeless, and think about how they can help in their own communities.

On the other hand, I found myself a bit skeptical about LeMieux's journey - he mentions many times that he was a rich man with everything he could ask for, and then suddenly he is living in his van and his children have refused to help him.  I couldn't help but wonder why.  What did he do that was so terrible that his children have abandoned him?  He doesn't mention that at all in the story.  And he mentions that he couldn't find a job - why not?  Because of his depression, or his age, or his general desire to not have to work?  Additionally, he and his friends seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out at someone's place watching TV and smoking marijuana.  It's a little frustrating that he details this part of homelessness while also saying that people who spend their time working at a job should donate more of their time and money to help homeless people.

I wanted to love this book because of its ability to encourage readers to think differently about homeless people and housing and food challenges in their communities, but it fell a little short.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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