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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Private Lucky: One Man's Unconventional Journey from the Horrors of Nazi Occupation to the Fulfillment of a High-Flying American Dream is a non-fiction autobiography written by Melissa Guzzetta, as told and lived by Hendrik C. Gillebaard. Amsterdam was a wonderful place for an active boy to grow up in during the pre-war years. Hank and his siblings were American citizens, having been born in the US, but his parents grew up and married in Holland. His mother had never fully adapted to life in the US, and so the family returned home to Europe. As a fourth-grader, Hank flew on his bicycle with the rest of his friends, but his imagination was fired by the airplanes he'd watch soaring overhead and landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Already an adept craftsman, he'd lovingly carve models of the various planes he saw. The family's idyllic existence was abruptly shattered when the Germans occupied Holland. Hank was accused by a fellow classmate of being a Jew and came frighteningly close to being sent to a concentration camp. After that, he spent most of his teen years hiding in the homes of friends, relatives, and other concerned Dutch citizens. When he was old enough to be drafted by the Dutch army, Hank's father had him enlist in the US Army. It would change his life.
Melissa Guzzetta and Hendrik C. Gillebaard's non-fiction autobiography, Private Lucky: One Man's Unconventional Journey from the Horrors of Nazi Occupation to the Fulfillment of a High-Flying American Dream, is one of those memoirs that’s such a good read that it often seems like it’s fiction. I had to remind myself several times that I was actually reading the author’s life story. I was instantly captivated by what Gillebaard had to share. While I've long been a student of the Second World War, I wasn't all that familiar with the effects the Nazi occupation had on the Dutch people, and seeing those grim and frightening times through Gillebaard's eyes was a powerful and moving experience. As I continued reading of his adventures in the military and then as a pilot, I was struck by his resilience, his resourcefulness, and his sense of humor. If you're going to read one set of memoirs or autobiography in your lifetime, make it Private Lucky. You might find yourself wondering why you haven't been reading books in this genre all along. This book has something for everyone, and it's beautifully written as well. Private Lucky is a remarkable story, and it's most highly recommended.