Rowboat Book Club Book #91

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Hollywood Park is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.

We were never young. We were just too afraid of ourselves. No one told us who we were or what we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion. …

So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.

In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.

Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal.

Rowboat Book Club Book #90

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. 

Rowboat Book Club Book #89

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World

by
Admiral William H. McRaven

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

Rowboat Book Club Book #88

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives a comfortable life in Acapulco, Mexico, with her journalist husband, Sebastián, and her eight-year-old son, Luca. Lydia runs a bookstore and one day befriends a charming customer, Javier, who appears to have similar interests in books. However, Javier is revealed to be the kingpin of a drug cartel.

Sebastián publishes a profile exposing Javier’s crimes, who then orders the slaughter of Sebastián and his family. Lydia and Luca escape the massacre, but are forced to flee Mexico, becoming two of the countless undocumented immigrants from Latin America who undertake the dangerous journey to the United States, taking a treacherous trip on La Bestia north of Mexico City.

Rowboat Book Club Book #87

This month we will be reading Chasing Vines by Beth Moore.

God wants us to flourish. In fact, he delights in our flourishing. Life isn’t always fun, but in Christ it can always be fruitful.

In Chasing Vines, Beth shows us from Scripture how all of life’s concerns—the delights and the trials—matter to God. He uses all of it to help us flourish and be fruitful. Looking through the lens of Christ’s transforming teaching in John 15, Beth gives us a panoramic view of biblical teachings on the Vine, vineyards, vine-dressing, and fruitfulness. Along the way you’ll discover why fruitfulness is so important to God—and how He can use anything that happens to us for His glory and our flourishing. Nothing is for nothing.

Join Beth on her journey of discovering what it means to chase vines and to live a life of meaning and fruitfulness.

Rowboat Book Club Book #86

This book is going to be good. Peter Anthony’s A Town Called Immaculate.

Still traumatized by his time in Vietnam, Ray’s world has shrunk—to the boundaries of his small hometown of Immaculate, and the warmth of his adored family: his young sons Jacob and Ethan, and his wife Renee—the woman who waited for him during his wartime hell. But as the snow accumulates, so do the townspeople’s stories, and the suspicions Ray has harbored for years start to resurface, along with his demons. As midnight approaches, and young Jacob vanishes into the deadly storm, Ray realizes that Josh’s generosity has been motivated by something more than neighborly kindness. Snow, it seems, can bury everything but the past; hour by hour, as Christmas Day approaches, Ray Marak begins to lose control. This haunting novel explores family and fidelity, and the fragility of the things we take for granted.

Rowboat Book Club Book #84

This book was not in my wheelhouse at all. I was surprised when it got voted in for this month. I had bought it back in June, ran it through a Periscope and thought that would be it. I loved it. I connected with so many of the stories in it. You guys kept on me to do it in the book club, not just the Periscope group. Fine! Merry Christmas Lol The Beautiful No by Sheri Salata.

“Thursday morning.

One hundred pounds overweight, no man in sight, and rounding the bend to 57 years old—a full-blown catastrophe.”

What happens when you realize you’ve had the career of your dreams, but you don’t have the life of your dreams? This was the stark reality facing Sheri Salata when she left her twenty-year stint at The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harpo Studios and the OWN network. She had dedicated decades to her dream job, and loved (almost) every minute of it, but had left the rest of her life gathering dust on the shelf.

After years of telling other people’s makeover stories, Sheri decided to “produce” her own life transformation. And this meant revisiting her past, excavating its lessons, and boldly reimagining her future. In these pages, she invites readers along for the ride—detoxing in the desert, braving humiliation at Hollywood’s favorite fitness studio, grappling with losses, reinventing friendships, baring her soul in sex therapy, and more. Part cautionary tale, part middle-of-life rallying cry, Sheri’s stories offer profound inspiration for personal renewal.