Saturday, 14 July 2018

New Beginnings by Chan Ling Yap

Paperback:  In the southern Province of Guangxi amidst the turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion and the Opium War, a woman is kidnapped and her husband shipped out as a coolie to Singapore.  Yet from despair came good fortune.  Seen through the eyes of one family, this is a moving story of the scourge of opium and one man's plight and rise in fortune in British Malaya.

In her third novel, New Beginnings (2014), Yap has all the assurance of her first two successes and more.  A strong story line, deftly rendered in brief and readable instalments, takes us from the turbulence of a China unmercifully exploited with opium by the western powers in Victorian times, to the race and clan rivalries of an emerging Singapore and Malaya.  The beautiful and tragic figure of Hua might serve as a metaphor for the suffering sub-continent;  and that of her husband Ngao for the resilience of the Chinese themselves.

The refinement and the thuggery of China alike, the bustle of Singapore, and the tropical potential of Malaya in those days are all made to feel familiar rather than foreign, the high emotions to be shared rather than differentiate us.  The characters are entirely believable, the degree of background 'colour' is perfectly judged, and the pace seductive:  don't be surprised if you find you read this book in one sitting. - Bill Jackson, Editor of The Corporal and the Celestials

About the author:  Born in Kuala Lumpur, Chan Ling Yap was educated in Malaysia and the UK and has a PhD in Economics.  She lectured at the University of Malaya before joining the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, where she worked for nineteen years.  Her last post was as senior rice commodity specialist and Secretary to the Intergovernmental Group on Rice.

On returning to the UK with her family, she trained as a fitness instructor and developed and taught her own exercise regime - a combination of eastern and western disciplines.  Her book, Fusion Fitness, was published in 2002 and in the USA in March 2003.

Yap has always loved writing.  While at the University of Malaya, she wrote two economic textbooks in Malay and published many papers on small-scale fisheries development.  In FAO, she was responsible for reports and policy papers on rice and contributed to the Financial Times in the UK.

After Fusion Fitness, she wrote a novel, Sweet Offerings, which has been highly praised for its evocation of Asia.  Bitter-Sweet Harvest is her second novel.  Her third novel, New Beginnings, was released in 2014 and won the Popular Readers’ Choice Award for the year.  A Flash of Water, her fourth novel, was released in Asia in November 2015 and elsewhere in early 2016.  The four novels form a quartet, which traces the lives of one family against the turbulent political, economic and social changes in China and Malaya.  Each, however, stands on its own.

Where the Sunrise is Red, Yap’s fifth novel, was published in 2017.

Rating:  5/5

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Paperback:  The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.  The prison population has increased from 300,000 in the early 1970s to more than two million now.  One in every 15 people is expected to go to prison. 

For black men, the most incarcerated group in America, this figure rises to one out of every three.

Bryan Stevenson grew up a member of a poor black community in the racially segregated South.  He was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need:  the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the US’s criminal justice system. 

One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young black man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit.  The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, startling racial inequality, and legal brinksmanship - and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted lawyer’s coming of age, a moving portrait of the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of justice.  It won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-fiction, the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-fiction.  It was named a Book of the Year by the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Esquire and Time and shortlisted for the CWA Non-fiction Dagger 2015.

Just Mercy (2015) is a powerful, bold true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix America’s broken system of justice - from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

With more than two million incarcerated people in the United States, an additional six million people on probation or parole and an estimated sixty-eight million Americans with criminal records, there are endless opportunities for you to do something about criminal justice policy or help the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.  If you have an interest in working with or supporting volunteer programs that serve incarcerated people, organizations that provide re-entry assistance to the formerly incarcerated or organizations around the globe that seek reform of criminal justice policy, please contact the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama or visit their website at or email them at

About the author:  Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School.  He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of colour.  He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Adnan's Story: The Truth (Non-Fiction) by Rabia Chaudry

Hardback:  On February 28, 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland.  From the moment of his arrest, Syed has consistently maintained his innocence.  Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, always believed him and has never given up the hope that he might someday be released.

By 2013, however, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, things looked bleak. That was when Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in the hopes of finding a journalist who would bring greater attention to Adnan's story and might shed new light on the case.  Koenig's investigation turned into Serial, an international phenomenon and Peabody Award-winning podcast.

Adnan's Story (2016) will reexamine the investigation that led to Adnan Syed’s arrest, share his life in prison, cover new evidence and possibilities that have since come to light, and review the recent court successes - including a ruling by a Maryland judge to reopen Syed’s case.  Woven with personal reflections from Adnan himself, including new never-before-seen letters he penned from prison, the story of his family, community, and public advocate Chaudry, the book offers new insight into the story that captivated the attention of millions as his legal team and investigatory team, along with countless others who have crowd-sourced an investigation like never before, seek to exonerate him and find out the truth of what really happened on that day in 1999.

What has captivated the public about Adnan's story are the layers of contradictions, fascinating characters, cultural dissonance, and fog of ambiguity around what really happened to Hae Min Lee.

But this is not just a personal story, it is a testament to a thoroughly broken system that convicts tens of thousands of innocent people, and how the power of the media and public can move rigid institutions to bring about justice.

About the author:  Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, Senior Fellow at the US Institute of Peace, and National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation.  She is the co-host of Undisclosed, one of the top-ranked podcasts in the iTunes store.  She is a frequent public speaker, and her writing has appeared in numerous outlets including, The Huffington Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Kidnapped: The Tragic Life of J Paul Getty III by Charles Fox

Paperback:  J Paul ("Little Paul") Getty III, the grandson of Getty Oil founder J Paul Getty, may have been cursed by money and privilege from the moment he was born.  Falling in with the wrong people and practically abandoned by his famous family, Getty was a child of his international jet set era, moving from Marrakesh to Rome, nightclubs to well-appointed drug dens.

His high-profile kidnapping defined the decade - and was permanently memorable for the ear that was mailed to his mother as evidence of the kidnappers' intentions.

Kidnapped (2018) is richly reported, and includes many interviews with Getty himself conducted from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, that raise new angles about the case.

How much did Getty acquiesce to the kidnappers?

Why wouldn't his rich-as-Croesus grandfather pay the ransom, which began at the equivalent of $550,000 in lire and bulged to 3.6 million as the months dragged on?

Charles Fox began following and researching this story since the days shortly after Getty's disappearance.  Fox's writing captures the voices of models and maids, mistresses and mothers, carabinieri and club-owners, drug dealers and drivers, alongside the Getty family members themselves to paint an evocative portrait of an era and one of its most misunderstood participants.

Kidnapped is the true account behind the gilded family, glamorous life and tragic times of J Paul Getty III, whose kidnapping made headlines in 1973, as seen in Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World and the FX series Trust by Danny Boyle.

About the author:  Charles Fox began reporting on the Getty kidnapping in 1973 and was contacted by J Paul Getty III himself in the early 1990s to work on his autobiography, leading to much of the reporting in Kidnapped.  Fox's award-winning journalism has been published in a variety of publications, including Esquire, Harper's and Playboy.  He also published two novels.  He lived in California until his death in 2012.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery by William Warren

Hardback:  Jim Thompson first arrived in Bangkok in 1945 as a major in the United States Army, and immediately fell in love with the city's remaining vestiges of old-world charm and character.  It was during this short stay that the startling colour combinations and lustrous texture of woven silk captured his imagination.  Soon after his post-war discharge from the army, Thompson returned to Bangkok as a civilian, and in late 1948, he and George Barrie founded the Thai Silk Company Ltd.

Thompson made annual sales trips to New York, taking with him large quantities of silk to distribute among a host of prominent celebrities, to whom he was connected through a series of fortunate introductions.  As interest in the handwoven fabric grew, costume designer Irene Sharaff decided to use Thai silk in the theatre production of The King and I. 

With Thompson's venture into the silk business prospering, leading fashion houses throughout Europe and America were soon showcasing his beautiful silks.

A naturally gregarious man, Thompson disliked solitude, and it became customary for prominent Westerners visiting Bangkok to call on him, at his 'House on the Klong' - a group of traditaional Thai wooden houses which Thompson assembled in 1959.  Showcasing an extraordinary collection of antiques and objets d'art, the house today remains as one of Bangkok's most charming and top tourist attractions.  Over the next twenty years, Thompson grew the Thai Silk Company into an international empire that endures as the largest manufacturer of handwoven fabrics.

On Easter Sunday 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared while on holiday in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands.  He apparently strolled into the formidable jungle and was never seen again.  His disappearance left no clues and attracted massive media coverage.  In the ensuing years, the unsolved case brought forth a host of conspiracy theories contrived by unusual characters.  Some speculated that he had been assassinated in connection with alleged wartime activities in the CIA, while others surmised that he crafted his own disappearance after becoming weary of fame.

Though no evidence was ever discovered, the story of the man who almost singlehandedly saved Thailand's silk industry is firmly established in Bangkok's contemporary folklore.  The facts were first recounted by William Warren in 1970 in his book The Legendary American

Today, many people in Thompson's circle are no longer living, allowing the author, who knew Thompson well, to write more freely. 

This revised edition (2014) contains new material on Thompson's private life and his alleged role as a CIA agent, drawn from interviews with people close to the events.  The result is this definitive account of a true-to-life mystery of international proportions. 

About the author:  William "Bill" Warren moved to Thailand in 1960, after a first visit in 1958 to write scripts for a documentary film company.  It was on that trip that he first met Jim Thompson, who would eventually become his friend.  For thirty years, Warren taught at Chulalongkorn University - one of Thailand's oldest and most prestigious universities - where he inspired a generation of students to love both writing and literature.  After retiring from teaching in 1990, he earned his living through writing and by designing gardens.  Warren has been published regularly in the New York Times Magazine, the Reader's Digest and various in-flight magazines.  He has contributed to and produced over fifty books.  Other than the best-selling Jim Thompson:  The Unsolved Mystery, Warren's titles include The Tropical Garden, Thai Style, and Thai Garden Style.  Warren has designed gardens for many high-end properties including the Phuket Yacht Club and the Villa Royale as well as gardens for hotels, embassies, and private properties throughout the Southeast Asian region.  He also designed the garden of his long-time Bangkok residence off Sukhumvit Road.

Friday, 6 July 2018

The Spiritual Doctrine of Elizabeth of the Trinity by M M Philipon, O P

Paperback:  The servant of God, Elizabeth of the Trinity, was one of those enlightened and heroic souls able to cling to one of these great truths, which are both the simplest and the most important, and, beneath the appearance of an ordinary life, to find therein the secret of a very close union with God.

This mystery of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the depths of her soul was the great reality of her interior life.  As she herself said: "The Trinity!  there is our dwelling, our home:  the father's house that we must never leave...  It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, for heaven is God and God is in my soul.  On the day I understood that, everything became clear to me."

Obviously the foundation of this supernatural life is the practice of the theological virtues.  Faith is the supernatural light through which we receive the revelation of this divine world.  Our hope, upheld by the omnipotence of God, Whose hand is ever stretched out to help us, enables us to tend surely toward eternal happiness.  Charity establishes us permanently in the friendship and fellowship of the Divine Persons, according to the teaching of St John the Evangelist: "God is charity:  and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him" (1 John IV, 16).

In essence, there is but the one supernatural life;  it begins on earth with our Baptism and it will reach its full development in heaven with the vision of God face to face.  Faith is the root of all this new activity.  It is "the substance," the principle, the germ "of things hoped for," things which we shall one day behold unveiled.  The least light of faith is thus infinitely superior to the natural intuitions of the greatest genius and the highest angel.  It belongs to the same essentially supernatural order as the beatific vision.  Living faith, enlightened by the gifts of understanding and wisdom, is, accordingly, the only light proportionate to this life of intimate communion with the Divine Persons. 

Hence, above all else, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity stands before us as a soul of faith, living in ever more perfect communion with the invisible world while, under the hand of God, sense and spirit were being purified through the events of her daily life.  Like a true daughter of St. John of the Cross, she was aware of the primary importance of faith in the supernatural life.

"In order to draw near to God," she wrote, "we must believe.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things that appear not.  St John of tilt Cross says that it serves us as feet to go to God, that it is possess Him in an obscure manner.  It alone can give us real light upon Him Whom we love;  our soul should choose it as the means of reaching the blessed union."

Without neglecting the practice of the moral virtues, she was seen to apply herself more and more to the interior activity of the theological virtues.

"My only practice is to enter into myself and lose myself in Those Who are there."

The Spiritual Doctrine of Elizabeth of the Trinity (2001) is translated from the French by a Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey.

About the author:  Father Miguel María Philipon was born in Pau (France) in May 1898.  He entered the Dominican order in 1920 and was ordained a priest in 1926.  His Dominican priestly life expanded into a tireless and fruitful apostolate in teaching, in the promotion of spiritual life and in the writing of numerous works, some of which have achieved universal renown.  Among all these works, the one dedicated to exposing the spiritual doctrine of Sr Isabel de la Trinidad stands out.  It is a finished study of the magnificent doctrine of the famous Carmelite of Dijon.  This book, which has been translated to the main Languages of the world, is, without doubt any, the best works of spirituality that appeared in the twentieth century.  The last years of his life were dedicated by Father Philipon to extracting the doctrinal riches of the Second Vatican Council in which he had acted as an expert within the theological commission.  He published several tracts on the council, but he had the project to write a complete study on The doctrine spiritual of Vatican II, and another about Saint Thomas, master of the spiritual.  Death surprised him unexpectedly in Mexico on 20 March 1972, unable to carry out these important projects.

Bernadette: Her Story (1844-1879) by Françoise Bouchard

Paperback:  Whether as a lone pilgrim or as part of a group, who has not felt intense emotion in front of the Massabielle Grotto?  Who, when praying at the foot of the white marble statue, has not felt the presence, still strong today, of the Immaculate Conception?  Who, when making their requests, has not been convinced that her Mother's heart has heard them?

Yet, without Bernadette Soubirous, we would not have Lourdes.

She freed up the spring at the foot of the rock for us. 

She invites us to put aside everthing that keeps us from finding the Source that brings life and urges us to walk towards the "other world" where true Light shines.

In these pages, let us discover the highlights of her "life of simplicity" and follow in her footsteps on the road leading to Jesus through Mary.

Bernadette:  Her True Story (2007) is translated from the French by Emma Cypher-Dournes.

About the author:  Françoise Bouchard is a professor and a member of several history academies.  She is the author of many books, including the following, published by Salvator:  Sainte Jeanne de Chantal (2004), Frère Gabriel Taborin (2004), Le Saint Curé d'Ars (2005), Sainte Bernadette (2006), Allez boire à la source ! Avec Bernadette (drama, 2007) and Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux (2007).

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Quiet Side of Passion (The Isabel Dalhousie Series) by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardback:  Isabel's manner had changed.  She remembered something:  "cover hatred and fear with love and delight, and with innocent things.  With love and delight, and with innocent things."  The trouble was that people were cynical about innocent things, or too embarrassed to celebrate them.  The proponents of confrontation, violence, the acerbic comment, laughed at innocent things, thought them naïve, considered them beneath them.  How easy it was to destroy the civilised structures of the world;  how easy to poison the wells.

It is summer in Edinburgh and Isabel Dalhousie is once again caught between 'gossip' and significant rumour.  It is none of her business that Patricia, the mother of her son Charlie's little friend Basil, is estranged from Basil's father, or that the woman has a somewhat brazen attitude to childcare.

And yet, it is curious.

Isabel, however, has much else on her mind as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics.  Along with the work involved for its impending next issue, she really needs to get her house in order and tend to the demands of her niece, Cat.

Thankfully, the arrival of Antonia, the exuberant Italian au pair, will take care of urgent chores.  And the hiring of Claire, a diligent if unsettlingly beautiful new assistant at the Review, surely means that Isabel can breathe, at least a little.

But her sharp observation and assured role as confidante soon have Isabel doubting all her recent decisions.  What's more, her instinct to help others may have put her in real danger.  In her desire to run both a smooth household and working life, has she simply created more chaos?  Perhaps the quiet side of passion is, after all, the best side on which to be?

The Quiet Side of Passion (2018) is the twelfth book in the delightfully thought-provoking Isabel Dalhousie Novel series set in Edinburgh, Scotland.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world's most prolific and most popular authors.  For many years, he was a professor of medical law, then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty-five million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world.

These include the 44 Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in the Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the von Igelfeld series and the Corduroy Mansions novels.  His novel, Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party, was winner of the 2015 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

Alexander McCall Smith is Professor Emeritus of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and holds honorary doctorates from thirteen universities.  In 2017, he received the National Arts Club of America Medal of Honour for Achievement in Literature.

Rating:  5/5 (Super)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Proof Of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into The Afterlife by Dr Eben Alexander

Paperback:  A scientist’s case for the afterlife…

Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible.  Dr Eben Alexander was one of those scientists.  A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then, Dr Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness.  The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion - and in essence makes us human - shut down completely.  For seven days he lay in a coma.  Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle.  But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.  While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence.  There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Alexander’s story is not a fantasy.  Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul.  Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to.  That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary.  No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. 

Reading Proof Of Heaven (2012) will change your life.

About the author:  Eben Alexander, MD, was an academic neurosurgeon for over 25 years, including 15 years at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School in Boston, with a passionate interest in physics and cosmology.  He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Proof of Heaven, Seeking HeavenThe Map of Heaven and Living in a Mindful Universe.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? by Donal Anthony Foley

Paperback:  Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? (2011) investigates the alleged visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, looking at their origins, and their impact on the Catholic Church.  It is an expanded, revised and updated version of Understanding Medjugorje, which was published in 2006.

Since then, there have been important new developments, including the formation of an International Commission to investigate the alleged visions.  Millions of people have visited Medjugorje, even though it has received no official Church approval. 

Medjugorje Revisited focuses on the transcripts of the original tapes of the visionaries made in June 1981, and the credibility of the visions and the visionaries, demonstrating the serious problems involved in accepting Medjugorje as genuine.  It also examines the role of theologians, and the Hercegovina Franciscans, in promoting Medjugorje, and its tangled historical and religious background, as well as its links with the Charismatic Renewal.

In sum, it examines all the relevant evidence about Medjugorje, and concludes that, despite some "good fruits," it bears all the hallmarks of a vast religious fraud.

About the author:  Donal Foley is an English writer-researcher whose work has appeared in a number of Catholic magazines, including the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.  Mr Foley is the Secretary of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Great Britain, and holds degrees in humanities and theology.  He is the author of the book Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World.

Beyond Murder: The Inside Account of the Gainesville Student Murders (True Crime) by John Philpin and John Donnelly

Paperback:  Beyond Murder (1994) is the inside story of the serial sex slayer responsible for the Gainesville student murders of 1990.  Respected psychological profiler John Philpin and veteran journalist John Donnelly detail the five murders and their aftermath in a gripping narrative.

Gainesville, Florida, was bursting with high spirits and expectations.  The University of Florida was starting its school year, and students were swarming into town.  Then, in seventy-two savage hours, school days turned into a nightmare of mass terror.

Five corpses - four beautiful girls and one handsome young man - were found bloodily butchered.  Even worse, the girls, had been unspeakably violated and mutilated, and left in positions to display the depraved damage to the fullest.

All the dedicated police force knew was that a serial killer was on the loose - and that their first suspects all proved innocent.

This is the riveting true account of the killings, the victims, an ace chief of detectives who did not let his own battle with cancer stop his manhunt, and above all, Danny Rolling, the man indicted for murder, who drifted through the worlds of both country music and ruthless crime until his demons of anger and desire erupted in an orgy of death.

Complete with exclusive revelations from Danny Rolling's own lips, Beyond Murder is an unforgettable journey through the twisted maze of a serial murderer's mind and a shattering exposé of the horror one sex killer can wreak.

About the authors:  John Philpin has been the forensic consultant to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in their re-investigation of the Stephanie Crowe homicide.  He was also one of the first independent criminal profilers in the US and is a retired psychologist with an international reputation as an expert on violent behavior.  He has appeared on "Unsolved Mysteries," "Northwest Afternoon," "Inside Edition," the "Jim Bohannon Show," "America's Most Wanted," CBC's "As It Happens," and "20/20 Downtown" and has served as a guest commentator on Court TV's "Prime Time Justice."  His published works include Beyond Murder, a true crime book about the Gainesville student murders, and Stalemate, a true story of child abduction and murder in the San Francisco Bay area.  He has also written five novels. The recipient of numerous awards recognizing his contributions to murder investigations, Philpin holds degrees in English, clinical psychology, and forensic psychology.

John Donnelly is the author of "A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa" (Beacon Press, 2012).  For more than thirty years, John Donnelly has reported in regions far from the United States, starting with the civil wars of Central America, delving into the political violence in Haiti, drawing out tales of conflict and peace in the Middle East and Asia, and then landing in Africa, where he feels most at home.  In Africa, where he travelled as a staff reporter for the Boston Globe and later as a Kaiser Family Foundation fellow, he became intrigued by the steady stream of Americans with big hearts and big ambitions whose adventures are told in this book.