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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
Born in the middle of World War II in the UK, John P. Culnane realized the harsh reality of the outside world from a young age. He was sent to a brutal boarding school where physical punishment, hunger, and cruelty were a daily occurrence followed by a Naval Training school where the abuse intensified. A few years after leaving school, John's sense of adventure would take him around the world. First to the US where he found himself drafted into the military and later to the conflict in Vietnam as a civilian contractor working on the front line. John's memoir, Nine Lives and Counting, is filled with harrowing tales of survival and extraordinary situations. He has faced corruption, betrayal, and death but he has continued his quest for new challenges. A life filled with no challenges or fear is maybe no life worth living.
In Nine Lives and Counting, John P. Culnane's storytelling ability is wonderful. The narrative flows effortlessly and sparked my interest immediately. His life is full of turmoil, uncertainty, and adventure but he always seems to find the humor in almost every situation. The characters he meets are so lifelike and the dialogue so authentic that it showcases their personality perfectly. I especially loved his Aunt Jo and her sherry drinking and his mother Helen. The women in World War II were strong, independent, and formidable and this is evident through John's childhood. His brutal treatment during the boarding school and Naval Training Center days was extremely disturbing to read but his resolve throughout was admirable. John's considerable mental strength and yearning for adventure struck me most during the Vietnam period of his life where he could have avoided conscription. This was an incredibly gripping and entertaining read and the letters and photographs throughout made it even more so. A very emotional story but also filled with really humorous moments too. I do hope he writes further memoirs on his adventures with Rachel.