All in With Love
Friesen Press (2022)
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (01/23)
Despite his sickly childhood—in and out of hospitals due to severe asthma—James (Jimmy) Gardiner wasn’t about to settle for anything less than greatness. As his boyhood hero proclaimed, Jimmy would “boldly go where no man has gone before” (well, sort of.) The young boy with a huge imagination found a way to manage the disease, leading to his interest in rowing and securing a position on the University of Rhode Island rowing team. But the stars in his eyes and the hunger for attention and external validation propelled Jimmy to head for New York to pursue acting.
This is where he unwittingly left little Jimmy behind and became Jim—the man on a mission for adoration. Well, one might admire his relentless pursuits, but his choices came with a consequence. It meant losing sight of his dreams and pushing little Jimmy further away. In his refreshingly honest and eloquently written memoir, James Gardiner, author of “All in With Love,” describes his quest for reconnecting with his authentic self.
The book reeled me in from the very beginning. James Gardiner’s unique voice and proclivity for dramatization jumped off the pages and into my heart. From little Jimmy’s hospital days, where he lapped up the attention of the beautiful candy stripers with his impassioned storytelling, to the recounting of his one-person play, where he put everything into his lines, it was evident that his heart always led the way, making the title of the memoir perfectly applicable.
Albeit took a little getting used to, my favorite aspect of the book was the author’s ability to create a voice for childhood Jimmy and adult Jim outside of author James. It gave his recollections deeper layers and a perspective that doesn’t come with many memoirs. Sometimes the voice of his childhood would be more present when he felt adult Jim was veering off course—whether or not he would heed his childhood call to action varied. Still, it profoundly affected the message the author was trying to convey. By the end of the book, I felt like I’d witnessed this fantastic evolution of James (Jimmy) Gardiner.
I applaud the author for his transparency because it allowed me to become immersed in his story—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I enjoyed the effervescent tone he took when relaying his experiences, and I can wholeheartedly say this book would resonate with a wide audience of readers. I am all in for this memoir!