Open Up

Non-Fiction - Memoir
147 Pages
Reviewed on 11/28/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Dr. Jordan Alexander for Readers' Favorite

Open Up by Alex Woodard was full of unexpected treasures like those one might find in an old trunk full of well-lived memories. Bouncing between experiences of his teen ‘wonder years’ to the older and wiser present life lens, Woodard ‘opens up’ in his memoir with humor, raw emotion, and poetic musings. Accompanied by old family photos, song lyrics, and poems, we learn about key relationships that are fundamental to Woodard’s growth, including the significant impact of his mother’s dementia upon his multi-faceted relationship with her - an important touchstone throughout the book. His writing is strong, sarcastic (in a good way), and full of heart as he weaves the philosophical and the practical into one: “the most beautiful moments can’t be captured looking through a screen because when we capture through a screen, we miss capturing through our heart.”

Never overdone, Open Up moves quickly through each chapter, revealing a new angle on people, connecting modern times – like insights on technology - and dropping gifts for the reader to contemplate, like: “What good would knowing do, when the end stays the same?” Juxtaposing deep and meaningful to a Skippy peanut butter ad, I laughed out loud recalling the scene where lovestruck Woodard describes his co-star as “super-hot former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello”. Woodard, who is also a musician, encourages other artists to stay true to their craft. He challenges using the number of social media ‘likes’ as a proxy for quality, granting others permission to choose to go old school instead; face-to-face, up close, and personal. Open Up reveals how Woodard goes against the flow before learning to stand up and surf. Once in the flow, he trades the need for a father’s acceptance for the unconditional love of a yellow Labrador. Woodard’s beautiful unfolding will encourage and inspire others to Open Up their own treasure chest to live and love well.

Tanja Jurkovic

Open Up is a wonderful collection of intimate and personal stories written by Alex Woodard, which slowly but securely crawls into one's heart with every word written, every thought and emotion expressed, and life lesson learned. The writer truly opens up about his life, describing his experience in dealing with his mother's dementia, while at the same time trying to live his own life outside that sphere, and how it all affects him. One of the most touching parts of this book is the intimate, yet almost mundane moments of conversation between the two, denoting the love and care, despite the hardships experienced. Sharing this kind of life experience is a treasure in itself that needs to be cherished at all times.

Alex Woodard is a very skillful storyteller, whose words have the utmost ability to touch even the most closed-off heart, if there is such a thing. The journey that he leads the reader through in Open Up is a journey of emotion, self-discovery, compassion, and unconditional love - things that the world often needs reminding of in these strange contemporary times. Recommending Open Up to everyone would be an understatement since this kind of emotion that enriches and at the same time puts one through a wild rollercoaster of life should be experienced by everyone at least once - and hopefully many times more in their lives. A perfect read for when you need a change of pace and a reboot of your mindset regarding life. A truly wonderful and motivational book!

K.C. Finn

Open Up is a work of non-fiction in the memoir subgenre. It is suitable for the adult reading audience and was penned by author Alex Woodard. In this emotive and insightful true-life account, the author takes us on a journey of self-discovery for a young singer-songwriter as he comes of age and tries to make his own life away from his mother’s battle with dementia. Written as a companion book to Living Halfway, this work can be read as a standalone or in tandem with the previous book. Either way, what results is a heartfelt, raw account of daily struggles and revelations we sometimes don’t realize we’re already holding on to.

Author Alex Woodard has crafted a tear-jerking story of coming of age under extremely difficult circumstances, yet still thriving and pursuing your dreams regardless. One of the elements that struck me most was the lyricism of Woodard’s prose, which flows as freely as music and makes the work all the more emotive and accessible because of it. I certainly related to his creative passions and desire for a successful, meaningful life of his own, and when this is balanced with the obligations and the weight of the relationships he carries with him, it makes for some harrowing and beautifully bittersweet considerations. This is a memoir with no holds barred, one which takes readers through intense times, but displays the true light at the end of the tunnel. Overall, I would highly recommend Open Up to readers with an interest in formative years memoirs, nostalgic reads, and emotional writing.

Pikasho Deka

Open Up is an inspirational memoir relating the life story of acclaimed author and singer-songwriter Alex Woodard. The book starts with Alex's initial foray into the entertainment industry, doing commercials as a child actor, and follows through his adolescent years as he navigates young love, surfing, and music. The narrative switches between the present day and the past, showcasing some monumental events from Alex's life. Throughout the story, a single constant remains that shaped Alex into the man he later becomes; his mother. A diagnosis of her dementia devastates Alex, a trauma he carries for the rest of his life, leading him to become a recluse and providing him with much of the inspiration behind the creative endeavors he embarks on later in his life.

A tale showcasing the power of perseverance and will, Open Up is a must-read for anyone seeking a spark of inspiration in their lives. Alex Woodard has a way with words and he uses them masterfully to draw readers into this poignant and bittersweet tale that keeps you invested from start to finish, leaving you with a lot to ponder about long after you've finished reading the book. The narrative is a breeze to read, and the song lyrics sprinkled throughout the pages make it an all the more rewarding experience for poetry lovers. Even though Alex's story breaks your heart at times, it ends on an optimistic note. If you're looking for something inspirational soaked in nostalgia, Open Up is the book for you.

Foluso Falaye

Alex Woodard presents Open Up, a story about what he refers to as his better angel and a twin to Living Halfway, which is a book that channels his grief and could be seen as his bitter angel. Open Up, the brighter side of Alex Woodard's dual reality, depicts different important experiences of a human with both modern and ageless problems and pleasures: expelling food products and messing up his advertising role as a child, finding love and experiencing heartbreak, making music and creating art, choosing between social media numbers and remaining original as a musician, adventure, surfing, building friendships with humans and even animals, and much more. Open Up emphasizes how the best moments can’t be captured with a camera and the need to appreciate personal connections and being present.

With the most exquisite words and poetic expressions, Open Up expresses our thoughts the few times we take a moment to pause from the endless scrolling on social media and busyness to question the point of it all. Contemplating the author's words and experiences was a meditative and therapeutic experience for me. An example: "Like an orgasm for the soul when you feel alive and free of worry." I'm a musician who also experiences the internal battle between getting more followers on social media and remaining authentic, and I could completely relate to Alex Woodard's struggles regarding similar issues. Open up is such a beautiful book that would appeal to dream chasers, animal lovers, and adventurers who love to experience life off the screen.