"Gantos uses the same bold honesty found in his fiction to offer a riveting autobiographical account of his teen years [when he agreed to help smuggle hashish from Florida to New York and wound up in jail]," PW said. "It will leave readers emotionally exhausted and a little wiser." Ages 12-up. (Sept.) n Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
When Jack Gantos was 20 years old, he wanted to go to college, but his grades in high school had not been good enough. He had desperately longed to be a writer since a very young age, but he couldn't seem to find anything important to write about. He was living in the Virgin Islands when an acquaintance proposed a business venture. Rik had 2,000 pounds of hash that needed to be transported to the US, and he wanted Gantos to help drive the boat. For participating in this enterprise, he would be paid $10,000. The danger and personal risk involved never even occurred to Gantos. All he could see was the means to attend a good college. When they were caught, Gantos was sentenced to prison. Ironically, prison is what enabled him to finally pursue his dream of becoming an author. He finally had the patience to write, but the prison would not allow him to keep a journal. He circumvented this restriction by recording his thoughts in the space between the lines of The Brothers Karamozov. Every aspiring writer should read Gantos' book. It is a testament to the creative potential that exists in everyone's life. Although Gantos' experience in prison shaped him as an author as well as a man, it did not define his character. Every one of his actions following his arrest was an attempt to create a distance between himself and the criminal life. While in prison, he quit doing drugs, began to write, and ultimately applied to and was accepted into college. Hole in My Life is a fascinating and surprising look at the life of the man who has given us Rotten Ralph and the Joey Pigza books, among others. KLIATT Codes: SA*Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students,advanced students, and adults. 2002, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 200p. illus., Ages 15 to adult.
Gantos, successful author of books for children and young adults, ventures outside his accustomed venue with this autobiographical work. At the age of nineteen, Gantos helped to smuggle one ton of hashish from St. Croix to New York City, and as a result of being caught, served two years of imprisonment in a federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky. Throughout the first few chapters, the saga seems an extension of the Jack Henry stories. The tone soon changes, however, from the comical eccentricity of Gantos's later teenage years to the tension and paranoia of drug smuggling, and finally the fear and despair of prison life. The reader suffers through each agonizing and vulnerable moment until Jack is released and starts a new life, fulfilling his dream of becoming a writer. Children of the sixties, whose youthful indiscretions turned, or nearly turned, into more disasters, will read this book cover-to-cover without stopping. Even young readers without relevant experience will find their hearts racing and their blood pressure rising as the frightening events of his story unfold. Gantos's honesty and directness in describing the whole experience make reading this book a gut-wrenching experience. Gritty details make it a better fit for older high school students and adults, and teachers who have used Gantos's previous books will find it especially intriguing. (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal). James Blasingame
School Library Journal
The compelling story of the author's final year in high school, his brushes with crime, and his subsequent incarceration. Gantos has written much about his early years with his eccentric family, and this more serious book picks up the tale as they moved to Puerto Rico during his junior year. He returned to Florida alone, living in a seedy motel while he finished high school and realized that his options for college weren't great. A failed drug deal cost him most of his savings and he joined his family, now in St. Croix, where he accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash to New York. He and his colleagues were caught, and as it turns out, he was in more trouble than he anticipated. Sent to federal prison for up to six years, Gantos landed a job in the hospital section, a post that protected him from his fellow inmates, yet allowed him to witness prison culture firsthand. Much of the action in this memoir-some of it quite raw and harsh-will be riveting to teen readers. However, the book's real strength lies in the window it gives into the mind of an adolescent without strong family support and living in the easy drug culture of the 1970s. Gantos looks for role models and guidance in the pages of the books he is reading, and his drive to be a writer and desire to go to college ultimately save him.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"We didn't so much arrive at our destinations as aim and crash into them like kamikaze yachtsmen." So Gantos describes himself as a 20-year-old about to be arrested and imprisoned for smuggling two thousand pounds of hashish from St. Croix to New York City. Young Jack seems to share with his fictional characters-Joey Pigza and Jack Henry-a blithe disregard for the consequences of wild behavior. Readers follow him from a seedy motel run by the great-great-granddaughter of Davy Crockett to a Keystone Kops adventure on the sea, from a madcap escape from FBI and Treasury agents to his arrest and trial, represented by his lawyer, Al E. Newman. This true tale of the worst year in the author's life will be a big surprise for his many fans. Gantos has the storyteller's gift of a spare prose style and a flair for the vivid simile: Davy has "brown wrinkled skin like a well-used pirate map"; a prisoner he met was "nervous as a dragonfly"; another strutted "like a bowlegged bulldog." This is a story of mistakes, dues, redemption, and finally success at what he always wanted to do: write books. The explicit descriptions of drug use and prison violence make this a work for older readers. Not the usual "How I Became A Writer" treatise, it is an honest, utterly compelling, and life-affirming chronicle of a personal journey for older teens and adults.
A memoir, by turns harrowing and hilarious, about a huge mistake.
The New York Times Book Review
His account is remarkably free of both self-pity and self-censorship. . . . This is a tale of courage and redemption, proving that a bad start in life does not have to lead to a bad life story.
Hyde Park Review of Books
Gantos really is Everyman, but an Everyman who has landed himself into a deeper pit than most. What separates Gantos is the determination that took him out of his dreams and into a successful life as a writer. Those writerly skills are in full evidence here, in this thoughtful and provocative memoir as valuable to those who have never heard of Gantos as to those who have read all of his books.
The ultimate cautionary tale.
Read an Excerpt
From Hole in My Life:
From my cell window I could see a line of houses in the distance. All week the people had been putting up Halloween decorations. We didn't celebrate Halloween in prison - or, I should say, every day in prison was scarier than any Halloween, so there was no reason to do anything special on October 31st. But thinking of Halloween reminded me of a funny story from when I was in fifth grade. We were living in Kendall, Florida, right on the train tracks. One Halloween afternoon police cars flooded our neighborhood and announced that Halloween was canceled because there had been a prison break upstate at Raford. A couple of guys had hopped a freight and the cops thought they may have jumped off in our area. We locked our doors and turned on all the lights. We pulled the curtains. All night I scampered from window to window peeking out and looking for unshaven suspicious types in striped outfits. Every time a bush rustled in the wind my heart leapt. I saw rugged prison mugs in every shadow. It was the most exciting Halloween ever. The escapees were caught not far from our house and I was disappointed that I hadn't spotted them slinking around.
I wrote this story down in my journal. From time to time I wrote down other funny stories and memories about my family and my childhood. It was a relief to write stories that didn't have bars around them.