Postcards from Lonnie Cover

Postcards from Lonnie

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Lisa Johnson
Biography / Photo Journal / Poverty
Publisher: Rand-Smith LLC
Date of Publication: January 14, 2020
Number of Pages: 200
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Postcards from Lonnie book cover

It all started on Christmas Day 1993. Lisa and Lonnie were sitting on their mom’s rickety yard swing, when Lisa’s curiosity took over. She asked Lonnie questions about his life on the street, about being homeless. To her surprise, he answered honestly, humorously, and thoughtfully.

That conversation continued throughout the next four years as Lisa wrote questions on postcards addressed to herself, then mailed them in packets to Lonnie at the flower shop on his corner. He wrote his answers and mailed them back. Lonnie answered a lot of questions and even asked a few, too. His detailed, matter-of-fact responses gave Lisa an unfettered view of a population living on the fringes of society and the issues they face every day.

Postcards from Lonnie is a dialogue between Lonnie, who speaks through the postcards, and his sister, who not only learns a lot about her brother but also about herself. Intimate and revealing, this is a unique family memoir and a universal story of love, respect, family, and ultimately hope.

Notable Quotable: "I own nothing but what I wear. Excuse me. I have and own faith. -- Lonnie
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Clueless Gent’s Rating

5 star rating

I have so many takeaways from Postcards from Lonnie, I’m not even sure I can get them all into this review. I’ll do my best!

More than anything, I consider this a book grounded by love of family. I can only imagine the amount of persistent love it took translate Lonnie’s story from dozens of handwritten index cards to words on a page. This is not a story for the faint of heart, and I am sure writing it brought a slew of memories – sometimes painful memories – to the forefront of the author’s mind.

What you will find on the pages in this book is a blatantly honest portrait of a man, written by his own thoughts. Whether you consider him a success or a failure is entirely up to your own thoughts. For whatever they’re worth, here are my thoughts.

My Takeaways from Postcards from Lonnie

My biggest takeaway is a new “appreciation” for the homeless. I think many of us, when we see the homeless, we pretend they’re not there. We may consider them lazy or down on their luck. But we seldom think of them as someone’s brother or sister, mother or father, son or daughter. They are – each one of them.

I think Lonnie was proud of his station in life. I don’t think he was proud to be homeless, but rather that he could be homeless. He knew how to survive on the streets, and he was in it for the long haul. He could survive the hardships and help others to survive the hardships. He lived his life exactly how he wanted to. How many of us can say the same thing and mean it?

I’ve never known anyone at this advanced stage of alcoholism, where they may experience seizures not by being sober for days, but hours. He never really mentioned the full impact alcohol had on his life, but it was evident by some of his writings and the author’s commentary.

I find it hard to describe Lonnie. I imagine if five people read this book, there would be five different opinions of Lonnie. However, I firmly believe that some part of Lonnie’s story will touch you in a very deep place. It may be a happy place or it may be a dark place, but it will touch something. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to read Lonnie’s story.

Technically Speaking

I much enjoyed the methodology used by Lisa Johnson to tell her brother’s story. I found it to be very unique. She wanted to know more about Lonnie’s life, so she put her questions on index cards and sent them to her brother already self-addressed and stamped. All Lonnie had to do was write his answer and drop it in the mail. Ms. Johnson displays each of these cards in the book, followed by her commentary. Between Lonnie’s answers and Johnsons insight, the reader gets a very stark look into this man’s life.

This story has a good pace to it. Not once did I start to get bored reading about Lonnie. Further, I think the author maintained good objectivity about Lonnie throughout.

I know Lonnie would be proud of the way his little sister told his story. In my opinion, it was a story worth telling. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
Photo of Lonnie and Lisa as adults.
Lonnie and Lisa
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Lisa Johnson Author Photo

Lisa Johnson was born in Middletown, Ohio, at Middletown Hospital, where her brother, Lonnie, was born almost five years earlier. Two years after Lisa was born, they settled in Houston, Texas. In a couple more years, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Before Lisa started elementary school, they moved again, to Atlanta, Georgia. Lonnie was in fifth grade and was starting to misbehave in his classroom, not “applying himself.” A new first-grader, Lisa applied herself big time, and, once she got a taste of the praise and affirmation that came with high grades, she was hooked for life.
By the time Lisa was in junior high, they had moved again, to Topeka, Kansas, and as she started high school, they moved back to Houston.
Lisa went to college, Lonnie got married. Lisa got married, Lonnie’s daughter was born. Lonnie got divorced, Lisa got divorced. Lonnie’s daughter drowned in the bathtub. Lisa graduated from college, went to graduate school (where she got a good taste of misbehavior but lived through it). Lisa moved to Houston to mooch off their parents for a year or so. Lonnie remarried. Lisa moved to New York to teach at Queens College, CUNY, but soon found her dream job as a copywriter in a large New York ad agency.
Lonnie got divorced and disappeared onto the streets of Houston. Lisa moved to Atlanta. Their dad died. One Christmas Day, Lonnie and Lisa dreamed up an idea for a book. She started sending Lonnie questions on postcards, and he answered every one.
Lisa quit the advertising business to go to seminary — loved seminary, hated being a church-based chief executive officer. She returned to Houston, where their mom still lived. Lonnie died. Lisa found a job writing corporate stuff for a large oil-related company.
Then Lisa finished the book she and her brother had dreamed up: Postcards from Lonnie: How I Rediscovered My Brother on the Street Corner He Called Home.
Signed copy of Postcards from Lonnie
March 19-March 29, 2020
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Notable Quotable
Author Interview
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