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UNDER THE GREAT ELM - A Life of Luck & Wonder
It is an account of a journey of enlightenment, a tale of high adventure, of love lost and found, and of remarkable interspecies encounters, Sweeping from the Illinois countryside to the plains and mountains of the American West, from the cafes of Paris to the Gaza Strip, and from equatorial India to the rhythms of Broadway,, it is a story of hope and inspiration for our time.
Debut author and lifelong actor/singer /songwriter/poet Flanders documents an adventurous life well lived in his sweeping and deeply honest memoir. After an idyllic childhood in the bucolic little Illinois town of Western Springs (home of the namesake great elm), Flanders’s father is transferred to San Francisco, kicking off a time that Flanders spends trying to find himself. His journey involves hitchhiking all over the West in the 1960s in the name of adventure, tales of hard labor in Arizona heat, taking an Army physical just ten days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, being stationed in Paris and briefly living on a kibbutz in the Gaza Strip—and, among other noteworthy experiences, a UFO encounter.

Flanders—whose creative endeavors have included appearing in Broadway’s Shenandoah and in the touring production of Annie, as well as albums of trail songs and cowboy tunes like Yondering and Ride Away—spins beautiful prose as he recounts his life’s journey, marveling that although his adventures may have seemed random at the time, he now knows, as he looks back, that they cohere into something like a rich storyline. He embraces that journey with joy and optimism, even after losing the love of his life and working through that incredible pain. Eventually, he finds love again with an old flame—something he wasn’t expecting, but which renews his spirit and inspires him to live every day to the fullest. She and Flanders continue to perform music together, keeping both their spirits light.

A few grammatical issues distract but don’t diminish the power of Flanders’s lyrical prose. Readers will live vicariously through the author’s varied, adventurous life, which has an abundance of adventure and braveness packed into it. Any reader who believes in second chances and living life to the fullest will devour Flanders’s tale.

Takeaway: Flanders’s recounting of his Renaissance Man life will inspire readers to realize that it’s never too late to chase a dream.

Great for fans of: Brendon Burchard’s Life’s Golden Ticket, Tara Westover’s Educated.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B+