"Just as a bonsai is gently shaped by metal wires, the experiences, lessons, and guidance in our lives shape our soul."

The title of this honest and revealing cancer memoir refers to the training wires used to coax Bonsai trees into their characteristic windblown profiles, just one of the hobbies and passions of this multi-faceted author. David Solomon's breezy, down-to-earth, and sometimes almost breathless account chronicles the intimate details of his childhood and adult life and loves with emphasis on his battle with glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive, terminal brain tumor. The reader will get a firm sense of Solomon's passionate engagement with life from the lively and urgent pace of his writing as he races the clock to finish his manuscripts before his death in April 2016. Sadly, he doesn't reach his goal to attend his teenage daughter's high school graduation in June 2016, but the first volume of his memoir trilogy is published just days before his death.

Solomon begins life with a strong desire to become an astronaut, which he can only do through a career in the Air Force because of his lack of funds for a college education. He hopes to be a pilot but finds himself trained as a B-52 Gunner, preparing for WWIII scenarios when he realizes the moral and spiritual dilemma he faces. He is granted an honorable discharge after applying as a conscientious objector, a leap of faith that ultimately molds him into a committed astronaut of inner space.

Long before Solomon is diagnosed with cancer, he is interested in near-death experiences (NDE). After his brief military experience, he studies with Japanese Tao and Zen masters. However, he continues to embrace throughout his life the deep and abiding faith in Christian theology developed in his youth. An open-minded, spiritual seeker, Solomon lives his life according to the truths shared by a multiplicity of faiths. This trait brings him great solace as he navigates the ups and downs of marriages and his successful and failed career experiences. His eyes are ever on the prize of spiritual awakening throughout his fifty-seven-year sojourn on Earth, and his enthusiasm for spiritual discovery is apparent in his writing.

Along his way to discovering what he wants to do after leaving the Air Force, Solomon's interest in Japanese philosophy leads him to a spiritual master who teaches him the fine art of training Bonsai trees. This talent, and his love for Japanese gardens, become both his passion and a recurring metaphorical theme in his life. Ultimately, Solomon invests a great deal of time, money, and love into his Washington state property that eventually holds the largest Japanese garden in the United States. When he becomes ill and must sell his beloved home in order to cover medical costs, he invests a comparable passion into exploring relationships with his family and friends and into his research of near-death experiences to understand what it's like to cross over at death.

Solomon learns much about the process of dying with GBM from both clinical writing and his physicians and through the experiences of friends and acquaintances who also suffered from GBM or ALS, another fatal condition involving the nervous system. Ultimately, the memoir's vivid writing shows that Solomon lives his somewhat chaotic but fruitful life with great love and compassion for himself and others. Readers will appreciate this author's—and his wife's—firm commitment to exploring the subtleties of life and the intricate process of dying. This candid and engaging story may especially benefit those suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses as well as their friends and family members.

A 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

Return to USR Home