A Road Less Traveled

War, Education and Civil Rights

Non-Fiction - Memoir
372 Pages
Reviewed on 05/31/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Dr. Robert H. Kimball's memoir, A Road Less Traveled: War, Education and Civil Rights, is based on a life that has been lived to the full and with a passion for aiding others across the globe in a diverse range of causes. Broken down into nineteen distinct but interconnected chapters, Kimball narrates numerous deeply moving experiences that shaped him as a proactive world citizen and as an advocate for change that walks the talk. This is a sweeping record that goes back as far as 1731, although the references to pre-20th century history focus on cyclical poverty, something Kimball experienced as one of twelve in a family that could not feed him. Stories and photographs covering Kimball's success almost from the second he left home, despite some serious setbacks, prove how radical a change Kimball made by virtue of his fortitude.

A Road Less Traveled: War, Education and Civil Rights by Dr. Robert H. Kimball is an armchair tour of modern American and world history from a narrator who was present at the time. Some are just horrible to read, such as the time he came across a man carrying a woman across the Mojave Desert and discovers the woman, a double amputee, had had her wheelchair stolen. Others will give a reader goosebumps, including the honorable conduct that Kimball displayed while risking his career and even imprisonment. He says, “I had decided in the Vietnam War never to follow illogical or unfair orders that would result in harm to other soldiers.” At the time, this was almost unheard of. His sacrifice extended well beyond his military days. He described gang activity at a school where he was in a position of authority, stating he was even threatened by a parent who was thought to carry a gun. Kimball has lived a remarkable life and what a blessing it is to have him share it with us!

Asher Syed

A Road Less Traveled: War, Education and Civil Rights by Dr. Robert H. Kimball is an autobiography that chronicles the life of the author from the earliest moments, including the machinations in play before he was born, through to an epilogue that details where he and the others he mentions are now. In between, we are taken through Kimball's life as he describes a poor and abusive upbringing and his leaving it to make his own way. Kimball recounts his admission into the Army, his introduction to racism, and the origins of his path toward an eventual Ph.D., followed by deployments to the National Guard and Vietnam. His engagement in some of the most significant periods of history both abroad and at home, meaningful activism, advocacy, education, and outreach provided a foundation to push for what we still fight to achieve today.

Sweeping autobiographies tend to be difficult to review because they are almost always tricky to read. One man's journey is usually novel-worthy to those who know him and the chants of “You should write a book!” are well-intended but, most often, poorly executed. A Road Less Traveled is one of the very few autobiographies about someone I do not know and who is not famous that held my attention. It has literary merit because it is written to a degree that provides both substance and style and it isn't boring to a stranger who reads it. It is the last part that is most important. Dr. Robert H. Kimball was born into a world of hunger despite being in the world's richest country and still chose to serve it. Imagine that. America could have fed Kimball, but it refused to do so, and he still served. My favorite parts are his post-Vietnam life and his devotion to championing the disenfranchised. There is a profound humility to the man and his motive, and I would give this book an entire bucket of stars if I could. Very highly recommended.

Vincent Dublado

A Road Less Traveled: War, Education and Civil Rights by Dr. Robert H. Kimball is bold and inspiring in being personal. It is a memoir that makes sense of the author’s experiences from his childhood years to the point where he is now. This book demonstrates that suffering is inevitable in our imperfect human existence, but we always have the choice of how to deal with it. Our conditions, no matter how bleak, can still be used as leverage for us to improve our lot in life and that is what the author has done. His story traces the roots of his poverty growing up in a poor family and describes his relationship with his mother and his siblings. He then writes about his two-time duty in Vietnam despite his opposition to the war, his pro-bono educational consulting service, and everything in between where he bears witness to America’s societal ills.

Dr. Robert H. Kimball places character and autobiography right at the core of his writing, and this story is written with a strong sense of purpose. It is very open and he risks making enemies of people and family members who choose to bury the past, and that is another thing that I personally admired about this memoir. Of course, making enemies is not Kimball’s intention in penning A Road Less Traveled. As he puts himself, his family, and other people in his life at the center of this narrative, it becomes a powerful confession, with writing that doesn’t pull any punches to reveal the evolving face of America from the perspective of an ordinary citizen with an examined life. I respect Kimball as a writer tremendously for his balance of candor and passion and his writing. He lives and breathes the words he put into his memoir—something that is worth reading if you enjoy true life writing.