BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Step right up ...

This one came to me through a somewhat convoluted route. The author (and noted speaker/trainer) Brendon Burchard was wanting to help his friend Paulo Coelho's new book Manuscript Found in Accra get a big boost over on Amazon, and he offered, were one to buy Coelho's book, and send Burchard the receipt, to send out a copy of this book, and give access to one of his on-line courses. So, Life's Golden Ticket showed up in my mailbox.

I'd previously reviewed Burchard's The Millionaire Messenger, which is pretty much a training manual for folks interested in getting into the “information marketing” business. In that, however, he repeatedly referred back to Life's Golden Ticket, which he wrote following a near-fatal car crash that had re-set what he saw for the rest of his life. From his descriptions in that book, I had anticipated that this was going to be a deep, philosophical, look at the nature of being, and how one might make better choices, etc. … after all, this is the book that he based his entire speaking/selling career on ... and I was somewhat expecting a minor-league version of In Search of the Miraculous or similar examination of the human condition. This book is not that … not by a long shot … but I do get the sense that on some level the author would like it to be held in those circles.

There is a sub-title to the paperback copy that Burchard sent … “An Inspirational Novel” … and that is, perhaps, telling. This does seek to be inspirational … that's clear all the way through, but it has more the narrative flow of “allegory” books (Flatland, is an example that comes to mind) than a novel per se. There's not much of a “story arc” here, not much character development (aside from the protagonist's, and that's limited), just a run through set pieces constructed to bring out some point about personality and worldview.

Now, as those of you who regularly read my reviews will realize, I “don't do novels” (much like my drinking, I consumed what I was going to of fiction back in my teens and 20s), so I don't have the “tap-dancing”skills needed to safely discuss this without giving out “spoilers” … something that I'm aware (from the constant wailing about that expressed over on the boards discussing reviews on!) is a major issue for some. Frankly, the thought occurred to me that any discussion of this would “spoil” it for a certain type … so, if you suspect that you're one of those, just quit reading now. Take it that I liked it well enough, and skip down to the last paragraph if you're interested in the availability/ordering stuff that I usually close with.

{Insert Jeopardy theme here while we wait.}

OK, have the spoilerphobes left us? River Song? Alrighty, then …

First of all, the stuff about his actual car crash just take up about 3 pages in an introduction. I was really expecting this to be more concrete and reality-based. Nope. The book starts off with the protagonist hearing a news report about his fiancée, who had disappeared 40 days previously (leaving him as a prime suspect of the police), followed quickly by a call from her mother. She, Mary, has been found on a highway nearly dead … and he rushes to the hospital. She looks to be dying, and he wants to stay with her, but she insists that he take an envelope out of her coat and take it to an old abandoned amusement park, and give it to her brother. Needless to say, he thinks she's delusional, but this sounds very much like a “last wish” and she's quite insistent that he go there right away.

Oh, delusional … her brother had died at that amusement park 20 years previously, and that was one of the reasons it was no longer in business. So, he takes the blood-spattered envelope and drives off (much to the chagrin of her parents). When he reaches the park, he finds her car still in the parking area. As he approaches the park, things start to shift, and rather than the empty ruin of a park, there are people, rides, vendors, etc., all there. He, however, does not have a ticket to get in, and this presents a problem, until he is “vouched for” by an elderly custodian, Henry.

Now, one of the reasons I quit reading fiction was that I found myself constantly getting irritated with poorly defined characters, holes in the plot, etc., and I kept waiting for Henry to get “filled out” more. By the end of the story, there is a bit more detail on him, butt still not enough for him to be anything other than a psychopomp … and here a literary contrivance to get the protagonist from locale to locale. There is no explanation why he takes the protagonist under his wing, and enabling (evidently rather extraordinarily) the protagonist to enter the park. I kept guessing scenarios, but that never gets outlined.

The protagonist is taken on a tour of the various rides and tents and features of the amusement park, some plausible, some purely fantastic, and introduced (or put into the hands of) various characters there. Many of these are clearly hostile to his presence in the park, and dismayed that Henry has taken the action to allow him to be there. In each scenario, he's “taught a lesson” about his life, be it battling with his father on a pirate ship, dealing with “other selves” in a hall of mirrors, being featured in a high-wire act, or being forced to deal with lions in a cage (while the location is described as an amusement park, much of what's there seems from a circus). Some stops are more successful than others, and in each case he gets passed back to Henry to continue the tour.

OK … big spoiler coming up … turn away now if you want to avoid it! It turns out that the various characters at the park only have a particular life span there, and by allowing the protagonist in, Henry used up the last of whatever it was that was keeping him there. As the book goes on he gets weaker, frailer, and sicker, and eventually “walks off stage” in the main tent. What linearity there had been in the story pretty much wanders off at that point, as Burchard is evidently attempting to tie the last loose ends together in the final chapter or two. When the protagonist is finally made to leave the park (he had “three strikes” on a particular set of rules), Mary and her parents are waiting for him in the parking area … some 40 days after he left her at the hospital to go there.

Again, Life's Golden Ticket is not my usual sort of a read. I quite enjoyed it for the first half, was somewhat irritated by the second half, and felt it was an interesting “allegorical tale” that had to, regrettably, be forgiven its implausibilities (despite how much I would have preferred it to be more straight-forward). As noted above, I was totally expecting this to be a completely different sort of a book, but I know that there are those out there who like this type of thing quite a lot, and if you're one of them, it will probably be quite useful to you.

I don't know how readily available this would be in the brick-and-mortar book channels … it's certainly still in print, so would be obtainable there, if it's not on the shelves … but the on-line big boys have the paperback at a moderate discount, and the new/used guys are offering new copies for as little as a buck and a half … plus you could get this (and his other titles) directly from the author at (and sign up for his training courses if you're so inclined). This is another case of my wishing the book was something that it was not, yet finding it a decent enough read, with useful enough info … and I'm a cranky, non-fiction reading cynic, so you're likely to enjoy this far more than I managed to!

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Tags: book review
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