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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Kindness for Weakness is a remarkable novel that illustrates a harsh reality the average person does not consciously consider much. The story told here is gripping. It could easily be read in one sitting: its relatively short length and an absolutely enthralling story. I heavily invested in James’ endeavors; I read it in two sittings with nearly no interruption. Kindness for Weakness is powerful that I would read two lines and the world around me would fade away so I was exclusively listening to James explain his struggle to find his manhood in a hard world. I was so absorbed by the story that the transitions to and from reading were jarring.

Of course, it is possible to get this feeling from any really well written novel, but Kindness for Weakness is different because (at least in my case) it was entirely new.  This was startling, I didn’t think a modern, realistic fiction novel would present deal with a topic I would find completely foreign. I thought I would recognize the world; the culture; the struggle - but I didn’t.  That’s what makes this read so absolutely unforgettable. It gives the average person - born into the average middle class family, with the average knowledge of the world - a new vantage point. Kindness for Weakness explored something that most of us tend to experience only peripherally. It’s a story always at the edge of our vision, but something most of us never really think about. Who is that unwashed kid in class, and what’s his story? Why don’t the kids who are always getting into trouble ever learn how to stay out of trouble? The answer seems simple to most of us. It isn’t so simple for everyone.

Kindness for Weakness focuses on a boy from an abusive home, where his father has left and his mother has given up on life, and his journey to learn what it takes to be a man with no guide to lead him there. The novel deals with the hardships of a young kid just coming into adolescence, without friends or a father figure, and a main character who doesn’t know how to conquer these fears and challenges on his own. He does his best and he makes the usual mistakes, which Goodman no doubt witnessed time after time, as boys like James tried to find their way on their own.

Goodman obviously draws on his experience working in the juvenile justice system to tell this grim tale with no restraint. The story is not bright or cheery, nor funny or satirical. There are uplifting passages and entertaining pieces, however it is clear that his intention was to tell the story of the kids he has worked with over the years as honestly as possible. It is raw and raunchy at times, because that is what is necessary to make it real. Without a doubt, it succeeds at being real. It opened my eyes to the lives of a social class I never have much interaction with.

After reading Kindness for Weakness, I am a little embarrassed at my previous ignorance to this aspect of the world. I’m glad I broadened my horizons and read this novel, since it is different from what I’d typically read. I’d speak more about the obstacles James faces in the novel, but, in an attempt to avoid spoilers, I feel like I can’t reveal too much about his journey. This book is worth a read for any guy over the age of 12 and for any adult. Goodman wrote something passionate and full of conviction that should be on your “to read” shelf, if it’s not already.

More about the book...
Amazon Description: "In an environment where kindness equals weakness, how do those who care survive?
Shawn Goodman will capture your heart with this gritty, honest, and moving story about a boy struggling to learn about friendship, brotherhood, and manhood in a society where violence is the answer to every problem.

More about the Author...

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me with any questions!


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