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March 7, 2013 / Leslie

Review: The Urban Hermit by Sam MacDonald

Urban Hermit by Sam McDonaldThe Urban Hermit: A Memoir
by Sam MacDonald

Genre: Memoir
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover | 304 pages
Rating: 3½ of 5

From the Publisher’s Synopsis:

Faced with the truth that his debts and his waistline had both ballooned out of control, Sam MacDonald devised a plan to change his life. [In] April 2000 … Sam got his wake-up call. He weighed 340 lbs. He was flat broke. And the IRS had caught up with him. In a desperate attempt to save himself, Sam decided to limit himself to a budget of $8 a week and 800 calories a day. He called it “The Urban Hermit Plan.” He thought he would do it for a month. Instead, he embarked on a bizarre year-long journey.

My Thoughts:

I will occasionally read a memoir usually because it’s written by a celebrity that I like or is about a subject I enjoy. Neither of those criteria applied to this book but since it was my book club’s pick for the March discussion I decided to give it a chance.

This book was nothing like what I expected and in a good way. You can’t judge a book by its cover and apparently not by its synopsis either. I was anticipating a serious (and possibly boring) discussion on how Sam embarked on a diet program while at the same time learning to manage his money. Not quite! It was a fun read but also mesmerizing in the same way we are tempted to stop and stare at a train wreck even though we know we should keep moving.

Weight loss was not Sam’s goal; getting out of debt was the motivation and he did it by eating the cheapest food he could find, lentils and tuna. Everyday. For a month. Ewwwwh. No more drinking; no more drugs; live like a hermit. He survived, but at the end of the month another expense cropped up and he extended the plan another month, then two months, and eventually a year. Along the way the pounds keep coming off.

The story was written in a conversational, free-flowing style that kept me turning the pages. Did I think he was crazy? Yes, I did. The entire idea was insane but I was hooked on the story. Offbeat, crazy and with a touch of juvenile humor, this was an uplifting story about determination and the ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible if we try hard enough.

Source: Public Library.
© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. BermudaOnion / Mar 7 2013 3:48 pm

    I’m a memoir junkie so I’d probably like this more than you did.


  2. Suko / Mar 8 2013 12:34 am

    Now here’s a diet that seems to really work, and helps you get out of debt! This book sounds like an interesting memoir. Nice, concise review, Leslie!


  3. Sam / Mar 8 2013 9:42 pm

    This is Sam MacDonald. I wrote the Urban Hermit. Glad you found it worth your while. It’s very interesting to me to see how people react to it. A lot of people are surprised by it, in both good and bad ways. Most people, I think, are expecting a “diet book.” It’s certainly not that. At any rate, thanks much for giving it a shot. PS: Michele and I are expecting our sixth child in July. So she did hang around. So far.


  4. stacybuckeye / Mar 15 2013 9:05 pm

    For some reason this train wreck appeals to me. And I like that the author came by and comment, that earns an add to my wishlist!



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