Monday, October 12, 2015

Walking Out of the Dark by Steven R. Malikowski (4 stars)

About Walking Out of the Dark

Even after bad luck had taken Mike’s sight, he still enjoyed an adventure. In one of them, he helped with a ski race with blind skiers. These days, he likes to say, “You might think skiing without sight is tough, but we had the hard part, since we told them where to turn.” Then, he laughs and adds. “That meant standing on a ski slope with blind racers headed right for us.” His adventures and jokes help many people work through bad luck, not just blind folks. 

This book is based on real events in Minnesota and begins when Mike attends a school for blind adults. A simple lesson is cooking without sight. A challenging lesson is about finding work. Mike learns that adults with low vision have a low chance of returning to work, which becomes his biggest hope. He wants to find a job again, so he can own a house again. He meets many good people at the school, but some cry more than they used to. Others laugh more, and a few compete in downhill ski racing. In this book, all of them help Mike work through bad luck and blindness.

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Facing life with declining sight, Mike has to re-evaluate his goals. He begins attending a school for blind adults. There he meets people like him and learns some sobering lessons about his future. But he also finds love, adventure, and hope.

Full of humor and emotion, this story gives us a hero to root for. Mike understands his new limitations, but he strives to find a way around them. Granted, not without a few bumps in the road. But he handles them with grace and flashes of humor. You can't help but like the guy.

There are some great peripheral characters. Ones that capture your heart and tickle your funny bone. It's a nice reminder of the roller coaster of emotions that is life.

If you are looking for a book with emotional payouts and endearing wittiness, check this one out.

Rating: 4 stars

About the Author

My day job is Lecturer and Manager of Learning Technology at the University of London. Before this job, I did similar work in the US, mostly in Minnesota. My night job, and favourite job, has been writing this book. It’s taken me 10 years to write it, and now, I’m publishing it myself as an independent author. That has been more work than I ever imagined, but it’s also been uniquely satisfying.

One of my current tasks is working on this website, particularly making it more accessible for people with disabilities. I wanted to make it more accessible, but I also wanted to make the book available before many more months or years go by. Since the book is meant for people with or without disabilities, I hope to have one website for all groups. If you have suggestions for improving this site, please let me know. For now, I’ll explain a little more about why I wrote this book.

As a kid, every family get-together had adults playing cards, while they competed with long stories and short retorts. The result was a lot of loud laughs, which us kids could hear from a nearby woods. As a student, I had a strange fascination with grammar and words. I wanted to learn what each punctuation mark meant and how to give each word meaning, usually by using fewer of them.

In recent years, it’s more about pages than punctuation and words. Each page must earn and keep a reader’s attention. Many successful writers describe their own way of working through this challenge. My way follows my other interests, like running marathons or cycling for a few hundred miles. Intense writing, running, and cycling all start with making time for them, each day. JK Rowling put it in a more colorful way, when she made a new year’s resolution. She vowed to, “Guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”

After a while, writing becomes a lifestyle. My favorite way to start a day is to have more coffee than I should and convert the caffeine into pages, many of which I actually use. I recently finished my first novel, following the maxim “write what you know.” I know my brother, and I respect how he lives and laughs about a challenge that slows down many good people, living with blindness. Mike lost his sight due to bad luck, so the book is really about working through it, sighted or not.

Of course, I hope this book is successful, but that success matters less than it used to. I’ll still start my mornings trying to earn and keep some reader’s attention. That usually involves long stories and short retorts, but hopefully, my written words will be as good as the ones that many of us have heard during a game of cards.

Find out more on his website.

Note: I served as a proofreader on this book through Indie Books Gone Wild. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.