One day, Richard LeMieux had a happy marriage, a palatial home, and took $40,000 Greek vacations. The next, he was living out of a van with only his dog, Willow, for company. This astonishingly frank memoir tells the story of one man's resilience in the face of economic disaster. Penniless, a failed suicide, estranged from his family, and living "the vehicular lifestyle" in Washington state, LeMieux chronicles his journey from the Salvation Army kitchens to his days with "C"—a philosopher in a homeless man's clothing—to his run-ins with Pastor Bob and other characters he meets on the streets. Along the way, he finds time to haunt public libraries and discover his desire to write.
LeMieux's quiet determination and his almost pious willingness to live with his situation are only a part of this politically and socially charged memoir. The real story of an all-too-common American condition, this is a heartfelt and stirring read.
"Sally's" is what the homeless call the Salvation Army's soup kitchen. LeMieux is a first-time author whose memoir chronicles his descent as a conservative publisher who loses his company, his home, his wife and kids, and all sense of hope, until he is called back from a potential suicide by the insistent barking of his beloved dog, Willow. Together, they embark on what is truly the "inspirational journey" of this book's title, living in an old van and moving from town to town. Using a beatup typewriter, LeMieux captures not only what day-to-day life is like for those whose lives have been broken by economic hardship ("from the millions of teenagers on the street to the millions of old heroes stored away in nursing homes across the country"), but also the rich inner life and the wellsprings of hope that he finds in the many people he skillfully and sensitively describes "people are as real as you can find anywhere." And his own experiences with constant depression, the mental health system that exists for the homeless, and his discovery of life and a sense of hope in his new home of Bremerton, Wash., combine into a moving tale that cuts through the stereotypes of homeless living.