‘Breakfast at Sally’s’ a hearty helping of holiday feel-good | Book Review

Can a small handful of pennies make a difference? You wonder as you dump them into the kettle for the bell-ringer standing just outside the doorway of the store where you finished Christmas shopping. It was cold, but she seemed happy as she jingled and thanked everyone for their change.

“Breakfast at Sally’s” by Richard LeMieux

c.2008, Skyhorse Publishing $24.95 / $27.95 Canada 433 pages

Can a small handful of pennies make a difference?

You wonder as you dump them into the kettle for the bell-ringer standing just outside the doorway of the store where you finished Christmas shopping. It was cold, but she seemed happy as she jingled and thanked everyone for their change.

It’s a mean old world these days and you can easily spare a pocketful of donation, but how can your few cents help anybody?

Pick up the new book “Breakfast at Sally’s” by Richard LeMieux. You’ll see what change your change can make, and you’ll wish you had more to offer.

Once upon a time, Richard LeMieux had it all: a huge, well-stocked house, complete with the finest wines, rich foods and electronics; a successful business that employed several people; a Significant Other who enjoyed world travel with LeMieux; and a family that loved him.

Then, LeMieux’s business took a hit. Trying to stay afloat, he borrowed money that he couldn’t pay back. He spiraled into depression and his Significant Other left him. His family wanted nothing to do with him or his money-borrowing. Creditors took his house and almost all of his belongings, leaving him with a van, a dog, some clothing and blankets.

Homeless and sick at heart, LeMieux contemplated suicide but couldn’t bear to leave his beloved dog, Willow, behind. Instead, he lived in his van, sleeping in church parking lots, begging for gas money, and eating at “Sally’s” (the Salvation Army soup kitchen) in a city near Seattle.

Led by a street philosopher-guide known just as C, LeMieux started to regain his dignity and explore his options. He consulted a sympathetic doctor who diagnosed depression and started treatment. He found friendship among the people who would have been “invisible” to him in his former life. Incredibly, LeMieux began to see that there were people worse-off than he, and he discovered a sense of gratitude. And through the kindness of other homeless people and a church filled with folks willing to take a risk, he put his life back together.

When I picked up “Breakfast at Sally’s,” I was just killing time. It was just another book on my desk. I had no intention of even finishing it but within 10 minutes, I knew I wouldn’t do anything else until I got to the end.

Author Richard LeMieux’s story is graceful and dignified, humble and un-self-conscious, gentle and cautious. LeMieux doesn’t whine (although there is plenty cause for it), he’s apologetic at times, and he takes responsibility for his predicament.

What makes his story so good, though, is the one thing that LeMieux hammers home: what happened to him could happen to any of us. That sobering fact and today’s daily news makes this an absolutely-can’t-miss book everyone should read.

“Breakfast at Sally’s” is, surprisingly, a great book to read during the holidays and during the winter. It will make you remember that the change you drop in the bucket is no drop in the bucket when it comes to changing someone’s life.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,500 books.

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