I love a good storyteller, and Joel ben Izzy is an excellent storyteller. I actually heard him for the first time at, of all things, a convention for professional fundraisers as he told a story about King Solomon that illustrated how non-profit organizations need to be able to tell their own story.
The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness also starts with a story about King Solomon -- and stops just as Solomon reaches the crisis point. And then ben Izzy begins his own tale, which is just as harrowing.
A storyteller by profession, ben Izzy is happily married with two lovely children, making a living doing what he loves, when the worst thing that could befall a storyteller happens to him: he loses his voice. And it doesn't come back.
We have both the print book version and the audiobook version, and I ended up listening to the audiobook over the course of a couple of weeks as I drove here and there.
Now, one of the great things about listening to this book as an audiobook is that you know that somehow his voice does come back, since he's telling you the story. But I was still anxious to see how this would play out for him.
Another great thing about listening to this as an audiobook is that you get to hear him tell stories. Each chapter begins with another story from all over the world -- some I knew, but many I didn't. They're chewy stories, ones that have stuck with me since I heard ben Izzy tell them as I try to digest them fully.
And then ben Izzy does something really amazing: in telling his own true story, he helps you realize that you are (most likely) in the middle of your own story -- and that you don't get to skip out of it. You just get to go through it.
He concludes with one of the best explanations that I've yet heard -- a hard-won answer drawn from personal experience -- of whether everything happens for a reason.
And then you get to hear what happens to Solomon.
But that's another story.