A driven and thoughtful young man finds success, failure, and life lessons in careers ranging from paper route to record industry executive to bicycling champion to real estate mogul.
Jorge Newbery wasn’t your average kid. A paper route, an ice cream delivery route, and even a job as a busboy didn’t satisfy him, and in his mid-teens, he dropped out of high school with a GED and started his own record company, working with punk artists and venues to promote concerts and sell tapes. After that, he went on to become a champion bicycle racer, pushing himself through “burn zones” – periods of great effort and pain – to greater and greater success until a failure on a Tour de Mexico run left him disillusioned about his prospects. From bicycle racing to real estate, he quickly built himself into a success, helping others along the way by turning slum properties into healthy, livable communities. But when disaster threatened to destroy everything he had, he had to work his way through the ultimate burn zone to find a new place and a new calling.
This is a lively, straightforward autobiography in which the author’s voice shines clearly through, giving the reader a vivid perspective on another person’s life and point of view. Newbery’s life is certainly not dull, and his energy comes through in the direct, vigorous writing style. He is honest about his regrets and his mistakes as well as his successes, and comes across as a disillusioned but still idealistic man trying to make his life into a success not only for himself, but for everyone around him: his family, his community, and his clients. He mingles warm stories about his family history with commentary on social and economic policy, managing to make the latter as personal and human as the former. His political and social views are clearly shaped by his direct, on-the-ground experience. He also offers advice based on his recovery from catastrophe, with more promised in a future book, Debt Cleanse.
At times, his prose gets a bit melodramatic. For example, he writes that he was “brutally slandered by city officials” regarding the Woodland Meadows debacle, and compares his revelation concerning those officials’ behavior to “the flashback sequence at the end of a M. Night Shayamalan movie”. He relies a bit too heavily on dialogue, which can interrupt the flow of the story and, at times, feels forced, as when, referring to his recovery from disaster, he suddenly blurts out to his wife, “I am the magic bullet!”
BURN ZONES is an engrossing and ultimately hopeful autobiography, involving an appealing combination of personal ambition and zeal for community improvement.