Monday, April 16, 2018


by Jeff Bauman with Bret Witter
Recommended Ages: 13+

In case you weren't following the news five years ago, and if you also missed the movie Patriots Day, Jeff Bauman was this guy who was standing near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 when a couple of pressure cookers loaded with explosives, nails and ball bearings detonated in the crowd, killing three people and wounding more than 200 others.

A minute before the blast, Bauman looked into the eyes (or at least, the sunglasses) of one of the Tsarnaev brothers, who set the backpack bombs. A minute after the blast, he was the central figure in an iconic photo, depicting three people rushing a man on a wheelchair to an ambulance for lifesaving treatment. Bauman was the man on the wheelchair, both his legs blown off above the knee. This book is the story of the first few weeks of his recovery, when Bauman unwittingly became an inspiration to millions of people. His survival and rapid recovery from grievous injuries, his adaptation to the lifestyle of a four-joint amputee, his instant fame as an example of "Boston Strong" and an eyewitness whose sharp memory of the bombing helped police catch the bad guys faster, the impact of his injury on his family and friends, and some of the not-so-glorious moments in his recovery are the raw material of an emotionally gripping, true-to-life story.

It's a fast read that makes sense of a complex story. I was frequently moved by it, and I mean, choked up and sniffly, and occasionally a little indignant at some of the crap a guy has to put up with even with as good a reason for getting a break as Jeff. And though the story is Jeff's, I take it the effectiveness of the writing is partly down to co-author "with Bret Witter." If I may be permitted the liberty to call him by his first name, With is frequently listed as an author on the cover of such books as Pure Heart: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit, and Whiskey by Troy Ball, Santa Is Real by Charles Edward Hall, A Golden Voice by Ted Williams, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron, The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel, Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván, a couple of "Tom Locke novels" with Sean McFate (Shadow War, Deep Black) on which With doesn't even get front-cover billing, and various sequels and children's-book spinoffs of the above. I guess helping other people get their stories out is what he does.

I'm usually not keen on books co-authored by somebody named With, but I made a rare exception here because I already knew some of the story (from the fictionalized movie account), and I correctly guessed that it would "get me right here." I wish I had any idea how much credit should go to each of this book's authors for its overall effectiveness. When With drops that first name of his and starts publishing books "by Bret Witter," I'll be interested in seeing what he can do.

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