You Can't Crack Me... I'm a Rubber Duck!

An extraordinary tale of one man's triumph over incredible odds

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
267 Pages
Reviewed on 05/20/2016
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Author Biography

Having survived a turbulent early life Charlie Northage entered the British army and served for twelve successful years. Upon release from the military his attempts to find civilian employment proved fruitless and his life became a continual struggle against the devastating effects of an undiagnosed case of PTSD which eventually led to divorce, the loss of his beloved children, alcoholism, and attempted suicide.

It was only after years of wrestling with his solitary torments that a successful diagnosis gave him the regained confidence and strength to tackle the difficult journey toward a happier life. Without pulling any punches he reveals himself to us as he is, a human being whom we, if we are honest, can all recognise as akin to ourselves. His personal story is presented in his book, You Can’t Crack Me, I’m a Rubber Duck!

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

If you think You Can’t Crack Me … I’m a Rubber Duck! is a funny title for Charlie Northage’s heart-breaking, self-revealing memoir, you are destined to revise your sense of humor. This is a cool book – there is no other way to say it - written so concisely that it feels like eavesdropping on someone’s daily thoughts. What saves the writing from overt criticism is the author’s own confession that he knows little about grammar, punctuation, or the actual art of writing itself. He proves this quite well. But what he offers in return is a brutal honesty and a thoroughly readable, down-to-earth telling of a complicated life. There is little room for compassion here, even for the real main character: Severe PTSD. If it were not for the author telling his own tale, thus revealing a certain self-awareness produced by age, the reader would not warm to him much at all, and certainly not from any sense of pity.

Right off the bat, in chapter one, we learn that Charlie is a hellion. He appears to note this objectively, but he never internalizes it as something bad. As a result, he basically ignores his formal education, allowing himself – as it were – to choose the school of hard knocks for his more enduring lessons. He gets more than he bargains for from this choice, and reading about his pummeled life is like getting beaten up on a relentlessly regular schedule. Charlie never seems to learn his lessons, almost continually taking precipitous actions based on sudden urges, which land him and his loved ones in precarious situations. And yet, the most redemptive and salutary element of this memoir is that he now takes full accountability for the trials of his life, and at the age of reminiscence he shows us in his writing that he does, ultimately, recognize his own responsibility for the various outcomes in his life. A complicated, depth-filled life that – contrary to the title – cracks him more than once. But he endures, and for that alone he is a man to be admired. So is this dark but marvelous book.

Rabia Tanveer

You Can't Crack Me ... I'm A Rubber Duck: An Extraordinary Tale Of One Man's Triumph Over Incredible Odds by Charlie Northage is not your usual autobiography. This is the story of a man named Charlie Northage, once a homeless child who later became a soldier in the British Army. His life had never been easy, but he conquered it all to have a better life. When his 12-year army career came to an end, he tried to seek a job best suited for his talents, but all he had were low paying jobs. He did find love and affection and he found joy in his children. But his undiagnosed PTSD kept him from fully reaching out to the people he loved and who loved him. When his children were taken away from him, he lost the light inside himself. However, he never gave up, he kept fighting till the end.

This is a beautiful and powerful book; there is no denying it. And no matter what you say, you are going to see yourself in Charlie in one way or another. He is us, collectively. There is anguish, sadness, joy, and a deep craving for home. You cannot help but feel for Charlie and have your fingers crossed to find out if he finds something that brings him peace and happiness. And you know what is the best thing about this book? He does not need pity and he does not pity himself. He is living his life the best way he can; he has accepted his life and keeps on fighting!

Gisela Dixon

You Can’t Crack Me ... I'm a Rubber Duck! by Charlie Northage is an autobiography about the life and experiences of Charlie Northage. You Can’t Crack Me... I'm a Rubber Duck! moves along in a more or less sequential fashion, starting with Charlie’s childhood. Having grown up in an unstable home and with his father being physically abusive, Charlie has always been a handful. At the age of 11, after his parents divorced, things took a turn for the worse and he ran away to live on the streets of London. Having been found and returned home, he grows up and joins the British Army. He has 12 years of service that include severe bouts of alcoholism and PTSD. During this time, he marries, has kids, gets divorced, and marries again. Due to issues with alcoholism and the inability to take care of his children full-time as needed, he loses custody and the painful reality of giving up a child for adoption is recounted in detail.

You Can’t Crack Me ... I'm a Rubber Duck! is primarily about a man’s life journey and, more importantly, about a father’s account of his life to his children, whom he hopes will read this book and understand some day. I found some of the pieces, especially the ones involving giving up his kids and his attempted suicide to be moving. The book is written in a very heartfelt manner and comes across as honest and genuine. I hope Charlie is able to see his children once again. Reading a book of this kind really brings home how much of our lives and experiences are outside our control and just “meant to be.” This is a great autobiographical read and I would recommend it.

Lizette Baker

"You Can't Crack Me...I'm a Rubber Duck!" by Charlie Northage is a memoir of substance.

You can tell Charlie put his heart and soul into writing this book, and for someone who did not attend school, this is an awesome accomplishment. Charlie takes you on an emotional journey through the climax and pitfalls of his life, of which there are many. However, it is a down to earth, easy read and flows chronologically, much like a diary.

The language is not always fragrant, yet it reveals the depth of emotion Charlie felt and conveys well throughout. You can tell it has been quite a rollercoaster of a journey for Charlie, but just like his rubber duck, he has definitely held on tight!

The accounts of his children and later the PTSD are very traumatic and show how our life's choices are fundamental. Charlie is indeed a survivor and refers to every crisis as another lesson learned.

I loved reading this book as you can really feel the warmth and sincerity of this man on every page. It is an honest account and I love the way Charlie also has a great sense of humour which I believe is what has carried him this far, and makes for entertaining reading.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves reading about 'real' life but most of all, I hope Charlie's children read this book.