Epic in length, Ray Byfield’s THIS BUSINESS OF LIFE AND BUSINESS begins on a sweet note, with dedications to the author’s four children and “special others” from whom he received inspiration. This is followed by an introduction, then a multi-page preface in which he basically delivers the CliffsNotes version of the story to come. A run-down of all the challenges Byfield encountered writing the book – in the spirit of an Author’s Note – is disguised as Chapter 1. It isn’t until Chapter 2 that readers finally land in Jamaica and the Ray Byfield story begins. His humble beginnings get short shrift, however, with the setting quickly leaping to Canada where he is opening two taco franchises and on his second – then third – doomed marriage. When he founds a company called SofStyle, a distributor of high-end salon products, things seem to finally be going his way. But major bumps are swelling on the horizon.
Byfield peppers his recollections with advice and step-by-step guidance for changing negative thinking and re-centering oneself through mental and spiritual exercises. Interspersed are nuggets of wisdom written with biblical flourish. “Condition thy brain so that it becomes a magnet that has a range greater than self,” he urges in one instance, using commanding prose suitable for carving onto stone tablets. Images of legal documents, text messages and song lyrics written by Byfield in his darker moments get a generous amount of spotlight. He describes a deep appreciation for music, which leads him to pursue friendships with a couple of artists he admires. Disenchanted with Trump politics, he devotes a chapter to his angst and takes a shine to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, whose commentaries align with his thinking. For two years, Byfield attempts to make a connection with the political commentator through letters, each shared in the book in their entirety. Though it was an unrequited pen pal relationship, Byfield was cheered, nevertheless, by the opportunity social media affords for reaching out to people on the national and world stage.
Once his third marriage fails, he takes a somewhat humorous foray into the world of online dating, sharing the details of his efforts to make a love connection. Decidedly not humorous is his recounting of a brush with suicide, a moment in which readers are given a true sense of the depths of Byfield’s collective despair. By the final chapter, (which upholds the spirit of the book’s beginning by being followed by a summary, acknowledgements, a section titled “The End of the Beginning,” another section of song lyrics and, finally, a one-page biography), Byfield has lifted the lid on a comprehensive hotbed of entanglements that prove formidable to him personally and financially. Lots of money is earned, borrowed and lost. Businesses are founded in hope and end in disaster. Friends are made, only to later be revealed as villains. Some women wound and others uplift. Hopes are dashed and epiphanies experienced. And what of all that useful advice he gives? Well, some readers might agree that Byfield’s lengthy droning over the smallest details of his life drown out the book’s more utilitarian aspects. By the end of THIS BUSINESS OF LIFE AND BUSINESS, the optimistic world once envisioned by Byfield crumbles, upending his efforts to prosper. But through all the chaos – and there’s a whole lot of it – the author manages to dust himself off, adopt a positive attitude, thumb his nose at lost loves and friends, and forge ahead into the next promising venture. Hopefully, exhausted readers will be able to do the same.
Entrepreneur Ray Byfield puts it all out there in his biography, THIS BUSINESS OF LIFE AND BUSINESS, as he wades through the sticky dramas of his many business dealings, romantic relationships, and personal encounters, each complicated episode an opportunity to share his gleaned experiential wisdom.
~Elizabeth Pridgen for IndieReader