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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
Raised by a schizophrenic mother and a manipulating aunt in Mississippi, Harold’s childhood is fraught with consistent abuse and violence. He soon learns the art of becoming invisible and complacent to avoid the daily ritual of physical and emotional attacks, not only from those who should care for him but also from his older sibling and peers. Although Harold’s childhood is a constant battle to survive each day unscathed, he somehow manages to retain his humor and hunger to succeed. Surviving Chaos (How I Found Peace at a Beach Bar) by Harold Phifer is an inspirational and heartwarming story of one man’s journey to make sense of his chaotic and dysfunctional world with unwavering determination and optimism. Follow Harold’s horrifying story as he recounts the events and memories from the mayhem of his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. As Harold, now 56 years of age, recovers from a near-death experience in Afghanistan, he begins the long journey toward recovery and a peaceful future.
Surviving Chaos by Harold Phifer is a beautifully written memoir that will take you on a rollercoaster of powerful emotions. Harold is a natural-born storyteller as he invites you inside his world of betrayal, abuse, neglect, and triumph. I loved how the story, switching from past to present, lends the reader insight into Harold’s mindset at each stage of his life. The humor is superb; his attitude toward his lack of friends and his dog abandoning him made me laugh out loud. The characters are memorable, with larger-than-life personalities that leaped from the page, especially Flirty Shirley and Dead Eye Red. The story flowed perfectly and kept my interest. Some of the scenes of abuse were extremely hard to read, especially the manipulating mind games by his aunt. The relentless bullying and violence Harold suffers builds a strength of character that is extraordinary. However, the story reminds us that one event can trigger painful memories of the past if not addressed. Harold’s story is a beacon of hope that we can overcome adversity and regain our dignity, kindness, and resolve to find a positive future. Surviving Chaos is a compelling read.