Ghost Boy

I really don’t enjoy sad books. If it’s one that will make me cry, I steer clear. And even though this book was about a person with a disability trying to overcome challenges, it was nowhere near as sad as I expected it to be.

I originally heard the author’s, Martin, story on the news and was really interested in his life and his progress. When he was 14, Martin fell into a non-responsive, vegetative state. The process took about a year, and to this day, no one is really sure what happened. He spent every day at a care facility while his parents worked and his siblings went to school, and every evening, his parents brought him home. After three years of this, Martin began to “wake up” and become aware of his surroundings. His brain was fully functional, but his voice and body wouldn’t respond really. He could move his eyes,  could barely move his head, and could smile. Most of his care givers chalked this up as involuntary. However, one woman, an aromatherapist who would come and massage Martin’s body (being stuck in a wheelchair and in one position most of the day is very painful) and she began to notice he was trying to communicate with his eyes or smile. She was one of the few people who ever talked to him directly during his time at the facility.

Martin’s parents agree to have him tested to see if he is able to communicate, and sure enough, the aromatherapist was right. When asked to look at a picture of a ball, he was able to look right at it. A picture of a dog, again, right at it. Slowly, through more directed therapy, Martin was able to communicate using a laptop, specialized software, and a board with pictures listed on it. Since Martin came out of his state, he lost all formal education and couldn’t read. Slowly, he taught himself. As his body grew stronger, his ability to teach himself did too.

Martin’s story truly is amazing. I would think that at some point, since he was progressing, someone would have noticed the changes in him, but the aromatherapist was key to it all. To this day, Martin is still unable to speak, but that doesn’t stop him in any way. He lives his life to the fullest and has accomplished more than you could imagine.

This book is absolutely a must read. I didn’t cry, but I do admit that I got teary towards the end, but for such happy reasons.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

A friend recommended this book to me a few years ago. And, immediately, I was turned off,  simply because of the title. But they, he proceeded to tell me about the plot: a guy and his girlfriend movie to a tiny, barely inhabited island in the Pacific and try to survive for a few years. What all this has to do with sex lives and cannibals, even after reading the book, I still have no idea. However, don’t judge this book by the title. It is entirely worth reading.

Maarten and his girlfriend, Sylvia, move to Tarawa, which is near the equator, nearly a third world country where water must be boiled before drinking, where people (literally) shit in the ocean only to have it washed back up to shore, where dogs are such a nuisance that they are either eaten or aren’t even braked for when driving, where fish is eaten at every meal, where canned goods are flown in, sporadically, from Australia, where this is no hospital or medicine, and where the live expectancy is just over 50 years old. So, yea. Given all that, this book is really funny. Maarten’s experience, harrowing and hilarious, is not one I would ever embark on. Ever. But I’m glad he did, and survived, to tell us this story. And, of course, in the back of your mind, you will realize just how wonderful we have it with food, water, medicine, and shit free oceans.

He has written other books about his travel, but my friend says this is his best work. Between vignettes of his situation, he tells us about the history of the island and its surrounding neighbors. This was much less interesting to me, but for no reason other than I’m just not interested in it. It was still well researched and well written. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I’m very glad I picked it up.

The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer

About a year ago, I participated in a book exchange with some friends. We all brought a book wrapped as a gift, drew numbers, and the book you picked was what you took home. Of all the books my friends brought, this was the only one I had never read, so it was lucky that I picked it. Granted, it took me an entire year to finally sit down to read it, but I should never have waited. What a fascinating book!

I had never heard of Richard Kuklinski until this book. He was a Polish man, abused by his parents, grew up poor, made fun of by all the neighborhood boys, and he turned into one of the mafia’s biggest contract killer. Because he wasn’t Italian, he couldn’t be made, so he worked for the 5 biggest families in NY, and the 2 biggest in NJ. He was simply a killer for hire. And, and far as anyone knows, all the families used him, but never targeted him for a hit he did as retaliation. He was too good, too efficient, too successful to hold any hits against him. If Family A wanted to kill a member of Family B, they called Kuklinski. If Family B wanted to kill a member of Family A, they called Kuklinski, no hard feelings for his previous job against their family.

He was a killer for over 30 years, no regrets, no conscience. He was also a giving family man. He was terribly abusive to his wife (beating her until she had miscarriages, even), but never beat his children. He bought them anything they wanted, paid for sick kids in the hospital to have treatment, enjoyed feeding the ducks at the park. I watched a documentary on HBO after I read this book, and he had such a shift in personality when speaking about the killings vs his family. He teared up (maybe crocodile tears, I don’t know) when talking about how his family meant so much to him, but had zero remorse for the over 100 people he killed. It was just a job to him. He killed at will. Anyone who looked sideways at him was a target.

Kuklinski was eventually brought down by police. An undercover cop gained his confidences and set him up. Kuklinski was arrested and confessed to 5 murders. He wasn’t given the death penalty because of his confession, but died in prison due to a rare blood vessel inflammation.

There are a few books on Kuklinski, and this is the only one I read, but I highly recommend it, if true crime is something you enjoy reading. It read like a novel, telling Kuklinski’s life story. I would love to hear the author speak about all the interviews he did to get this information. This book is such a well written comprehensive of Kuklinski.