The Homeless Man’s Journal is author Shayne Whitaker’s first novel. The semi-autobiographical based on his tragic upbringing and how he overcame the obstacles of poverty and abuse to find the joy in his life.
Readers follow Whitaker during each year of adolescence as he grows up living in filth and neglect. We read how his dad and step mom inflict physical and emotional abuse, as well as instability in his home. We see small glimmers of hope for the young boy stripped away as he continues to live in chaos. Through it all, Whitaker reveals how he found the strength to continue forward, and how he realized that horrid circumstances don’t define who you are or decide your future.
The story starts off as four year old Shayne is brought into an office with his mother. She leaves him on a chair with a toy as she takes care of some business. While he is distracted, she abandons him, and he is left alone. This is where Shayne’s life begins for the readers. The story transitions to a present day where a gentleman named Ben finds a journal left behind by a homeless man. Inside the journal, we continue to read on Whitaker’s upbringing and life.
Whitaker’s writing is astounding, as we read through his eyes each year as he grows. Readers truly feel as though they are involved with the story. We feel for the boy who was forced to eat mayonnaise sandwiches, live with roaches and mice, lacking of love and longing for friends and a loving home. His family’s constant relocation hardly allows him to hold onto friendships or seek the help he needs. We may cry as we read the physical and sexual abuse he received as a kid, wondering how people can be so cruel to a child. Whitaker doesn’t hold back on the details which can be difficult for some to read. Stories like these show how cruel the world can be, and how we as people can help others, rather than remaining ignorant.
Despite the sadness, the author doesn’t forget to include the positives experiences of his childhood. For young Shayne, movies, television, and writing were an escape route; and through his experiences, we are able to relive the thrills of Star Wars upon its release, as well as many other classics like Jaws. We see his love for exploring his environments, and how his smarts inevitably provide a positive impact on his studies. As we learn of his early friendships, we feel for him, as we see they provide the hope and happiness he deserves. The love from other kids is meaningful to him. Readers will find themselves wishing to be his companion during his youth.
What‘s most intriguing however is not once in Whitaker’s story does he ever act entitled. He doesn’t once demand anything from anyone. We find just a young caring boy who wants to be loved like many. He appreciates every positive interaction. When he acts inappropriately in youth, he accepts his punishments. He also shows his support for his friends reaching their milestones, despite his circumstances.
This book is an impactful read. However, I don’t wish to give away every detail as to whether Whitaker is able to overcome his obstacles or ever grasp hold a truly peaceful life. Also, it can be disheartening to read how sad certain details of his life really were, yet, it’s a reminder for us to remember to appreciate the good people and circumstances in our lives. Likewise, we learn the importance of being a positive example in the lives of others. We need stories like this that help us to evaluate our lives and encourage others that they are not alone. The Homeless Man’s Journal is available now through amazon in both softcover and as an ebook.