Towards the Light
by P.A. Condon
Trafford Publishing

"Before long, music, mountains and stars came together in harmony with my innermost being – and the universe seemed to smile."

Written by a self-described "absent-minded introvert," this memoir wraps fascinating philosophy and observations into a well-written treat that speaks to the average human. Condon believes that childhood poverty, a stint in the Royal Air Force during WWII, the hobby of mountain climbing, a career as a teacher and early widowhood created a life where his reach fell short of his grasp. This air of captivating modesty, along with superior prose, shapes a memoir poignant in lack of ego and self-pity.

The book begins near working-class London and meanders comfortably through a series of deprivations, including a pivotal one at age ten, when Condon's father was briefly imprisoned and his mother ill. Separated from his younger sister, the shy, introverted child landed in Banstead Residential School in Surrey, where incidents rendered him psychologically vulnerable, leaving the world a meaningless place where bad things happen for no reason.

The recurring threads of how childhood incidents shape adult character and reactions are strong as steel and masterfully woven. With great sensitivity, Condon shows how multiple family separations adversely affected his sister's perception so that she, unlike Condon, did not feel loved by their mother. And how "the absence of love" is worse than the absence of money.

A strong narrative style rich in detail, including the childhood collection of Kings and Queens cigarette cards, makes the story come alive. Phrases to relish include "an accent as rich as Drambuie," the "residual maggots" of rotten childhood memories, and the comparison of touristy Niagara Falls to a "chained elephant."

The tension between Condon's outward joyless and boring life and his inner rich and vibrant tapestry belies his fatalistic philosophy and sends shivers of empathy throughout the strands of beautiful prose and poetry written by a thinker who lives in his soul.

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