A Message to My Family is written by a man who, after being incarcerated and leading a life of crime and drug addiction, turned himself around and become a law-abiding citizen who cherishes his family. The book opens with the author in jail on the island of St. Lucia at a young age and ends with him nearing his 50th birthday.
Instead of an autobiography, however, the book reads more like an advice manual, with author Stuart J. Cole sharing his personal feelings on everything from relationships to religion to environmental issues. For example, he admonishes readers to: “Stay focused. That’s right, stay focused. So many people have chosen the path they wish to take… But somewhere along the way, things do not work according to plan.” On the other hand, he also suggests that: “When you begin to understand life, you will begin to learn that you can put things on hold, slow things down to a pace…”
This defaulting to self-help advice is disheartening, because the author’s life is a potential goldmine of stories. More details would have been gratifying about the time, for instance, he talked a fellow prisoner out of escaping, or the colorful characters he encountered behind bars, or the time he represented himself in court during a lawsuit. Instead of reading what often feels like a lecture, it would have been preferable to learn about what epiphanies led the author to so admirably change his life.
The most uplifting part of the book is the obvious love Cole has for the mother of his two children. Again, more details about her and other family members would have made the book more vivid. Interestingly, Cole’s daughter makes it to the boot camp round of Britain’s The X Factor, but not much more information is given.
The author clearly has an inspiring and engaging story to tell; the reader is left wishing he had told more of it.
Also available as an ebook.