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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
I, Tarzan: Against All Odds – An inspiring real-life story of courage, hope, and true resilience by Jean-Philippe Soulé absolutely is what the subtitle to the story suggests. We follow Philippe from his troubled youth, where he was an alcoholic thug by the age of thirteen, shunned, constantly belittled, and unloved by those he thought his heroes - his mother and father - through his successful engagement as a famed mountain commando in the French military, to his sojourn to the United States and his seemingly perfect success in the world of high-tech. Philippe, from a very young age, had grandiose dreams of how his future life would be. Like his heroes, the fictional Tarzan, the famed French underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau, and numerous mountaineers, Philippe wanted to be a modern-day explorer, climbing the mountains, exploring the jungles, and meeting with and learning from the indigenous people of the world. As a high-school dropout, none of this seemed to be a real possibility for Philippe, especially to his family who suggested he look for an apprenticeship to secure his future. Against all odds, Philippe, after enlisting in French compulsory military training, set out to become one of the elites in the French military – a member of the fabled mountain commando units. This book tells us of Philippe’s journey to maturity, never losing sight of his ultimate goal – to be free to explore and live the life he dreamed of, not a life dictated to him by others.
Having read many books of courage and self-help over the years, it takes a lot to move me emotionally but I, Tarzan: Against All Odds is one of those books that can open one’s eyes, often jaundiced in this age by mediocrity and a lack of true ambition. What author Jean-Philippe Soulé was able to do in the short time covered by this narrative is simply amazing. Faced with such skepticism by those he loved of his ability to make anything of himself, the author never once gave in to the relentless pressure to take the easy, the comfortable, the financially secure route. He was true to himself at all times and truly lived by his self-described nature. “When faced with an easy or difficult route, I would always take the difficult route.” He truly believed life was for living and epitomized the saying: “Don’t die with your music still inside of you.” Of all the things Philippe has achieved, he can definitely add writing a readable and excitable memoir to his list. This story just flows off the page beautifully and despite the author admitting he had the biggest of egos and that was part of what drove him so hard, there were real aspects of deep humility and understanding of the human condition mixed in with that enormous ego. This was a thoroughly captivating read and it must be remembered it covers just a small part of this amazing adventurer’s life. Having read this, I am so completely motivated to read more of his adventures and will be awaiting his future stories with bated breath. At fifty-three, he and his wife are still able to compete in cycling events at a world-class level and that alone is a testament to his amazing strength and character. What a story! I cannot recommend this read highly enough.