Victor Valley to West Point by C.A. Henderson
C.A. Henderson’s memoir, Victor Valley to West Point: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, aims to inspire others to never stop dreaming, even if you must modify your dreams. Henderson relates the story of his life, beginning with a relatively idyllic childhood in San Bernardino. Everything changes, however, after his parents’ divorce and his mother struggles to raise C.A. and his siblings on her own. They move around a lot, but one thing never changes for C.A. – his love of football. His dreams come crashing to a halt when his mother, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, refuses to allow him to play. Finally, in junior high, his mother changes her mind and C.A. finally gets to try out for football. He continues playing in high school, moving in with his father after some trouble getting along with his mother. Eventually, C.A. attracts the attention of West Point, and is given a full scholarship. An injury in his very first game sidelines him, unfortunately, and C.A. sinks into a depression, eventually leaving West Point and giving up on his dream of football. Ultimately, after many sidesteps and poor decisions, C.A. rallies, and manages to graduate from college and adapt his dream to the new circumstances of his life.
Henderson’s story is an interesting one, and he records all of it – the things that make him look good and the things that do not. Sports fans in particular will enjoy this story, as Henderson’s passion for football really comes through, from his days playing only flag football, to his first college ball game. The general reader may find this to be too much detail, however, and occasionally, the story seems repetitive, which could cause the reader’s interest to wane. This is only enhanced by Henderson’s often dull word choice and descriptions, which could benefit from some polishing and some variety. Nevertheless, Henderson achieves his stated goal of “enlighten[ing], and perhaps inspir[ing], someone else –someone … who perhaps had a dream their whole life but gave up on it; or someone that has a dream and needs encouragement to follow their dream.” Henderson does so not by narrating some shocking twist or impossible occurrence, but by detailing the ordinary struggles that everyone encounters, and demonstrating that it is possible to for everyone to achieve their goals, even if those goals look a bit different than what they had first imagined.
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