David Ambroz peels back the skin of our illusions in “A Place Called Home”

Book cover of "A Place Called Home" by David Ambroz
Book cover of "A Place Called Home" by David Ambroz

Book Review

It is a gossamer web that suspends any family over the shoals of poverty. When we were children, those of us who grew up in what we thought was middle class had no idea of the struggles our families had to keep a roof over our heads, make car payments, keep the family fed, and more. David Ambroz peels back the skin of our illusions in A Place Called Home.

Ambroz grew up in NYC quite literally on the mean streets. Those of us who remember what Times Square was like prior to the Disneyfication know that it was a gritty, mean in every sense of the word, space. David (Hugh at the time) and his brother Alex, sister Jessica and their mother wandered like Diogenes from place to place looking for the one called “home.”

Enduring wind, cold, and hunger as a small child, huddling with his family in shelters, David learned how to steal to survive. There are no rose-colored glasses in this modern-day Charles Dickens story, and stories like his are still happening everywhere today.

Ambroz brings us in on a gimlet-eyed tour that has beauty shining through the grim reality of his existence. The family becomes accidental Buddhists, practicing non-attachment even as precious items like books must be left behind when they flee a landlord. Dumpster diving is an art and David and his siblings become experts.

I found myself staying up late every evening, reading until my eyes closed themselves. David’s differences made him the glue that kept his family functioning, his sense of order over ordure, cultivating his mother’s moods like a master gardener, a careful observer.

His mother’s mental illness, something that was addressed with pills before the medical community understood how to treat the roots, propelled the family through harrowing adventures, and through it all David emerged as a strong and clear voice with a gravitas that shines through every page.

How does David go from Dollar Thursday at the thrift store through foster care, Vassar, and UCLA Law School? You’ll need to devote your own late nights to his hero’s journey to advocacy for the other heroes still in those circumstances.

Looking for something to take to the B&B on a leaf-peeping weekend? This is it! And when you look up at the stars, you’ll be thanking every single one of them for yourself, and for those like David Ambroz who make all our lives better.

This memoir is available everywhere.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-3069-0354-0