Reviews of The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness
First-time author ben Izzy's vocation as a professional storyteller may fill his life with heady myth and poetry, but as he acknowledges early on in this slim but memorable recollection of personal tragedy, "the absence of magic" in his childhood is the very thing "that sent me looking for it." He found it in the unlikeliest and most cruelly ironic way. After undergoing surgery to remove thyroid cancer, ben Izzy lost his voice-the instrument of not only his art, but also his livelihood. Telling himself that a return to the routine of performance would spark a recovery, ben Izzy accepted an offer to perform at a bar mitzvah, but only "whispers and gasps" emerged. Retreating into self-pity, anger, hopelessness and sullen solitude, the author searched, like the protagonists in the stories he used to tell, for a spiritual explanation of the loss. He reconnected with his estranged, cantankerous mentor, who offered support by telling dizzyingly enigmatic stories hinting at the idea that ben Izzy had been given a magical gift by losing his voice. When a doctor suggested he might be able to help ben Izzy speak again in a risky procedure, ben Izzy's wife told him she liked him better without it, an incident the author does not satisfyingly explain. But ben Izzy successfully translates the best elements of oral storytelling to the page; his memoir shines with brisk suspense as well as his unerring, precise eye for including only the elements of his hard-won wisdom that matter the most. (Nov. 7)
Forecast: Ben Izzy, who now has his voice back, will go on a 12-city tour, which will certainly boost sales. The book, which is 5" 7", could become a popular holiday gift. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A storyteller losing his voice? Hard to imagine, and yet that is exactly what happened to ben Izzy. Sure that he has found the secret to happiness-two beautiful children, a profession he loves, and a marriage he and his wife have worked hard at-ben Izzy gets a call telling him he has thyroid cancer on his son's fifth birthday. After surgery, the cancer is gone, but a vocal chord is paralyzed, and even whispering takes his breath away. How does one deal with such a disaster? If you're a storyteller, you tell your story, which is exactly what ben Izzy does. Interspersing his text with illustrative tales from diverse cultures, the author relives the year in which he had no voice (experimental surgery restores it) and how he and his family coped-or didn't. Told with humor and the wisdom that comes only through suffering, this is a story not just for storytellers but for anyone who has faced tragedy. Recommended for public libraries.
Katherine Koenig, Ellis Sch., Pittsburgh Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.