From one year to the next, I never know where my book adventures will take me. It’s literary Russian roulette.
A few years ago, an agent called me out of the blue and asked if I would be interested in working on a memoir with a Wall Street legend.
My first reaction was, ‘Oh, God, what do I know about finance or Wall Street?’ Not much, beyond paying my American Express bill or turning my investments over to someone who essentially speaks Greek. But I was game.
Over a period of months, I got to know native New Yorker Ed Hajim and his wife Barbara (who became our project archive director and photo editor, working with our brilliant book designer, Michelle Manley.) Opposite to what I expected, I discovered a self-effacing, funny, energetic octogenarian with a passion for golf and adventure. And together, we worked on his book line by line, sculpting the language, filling in the plot points, mining his memory, and creating a narrative that reflected his true intent.
You can read the result on March 2nd, when Ed makes his literary debut with a riveting memoir titled On The Road Less Traveled: An Unlikely Journey from the Orphanage to the Boardroom. The book was acquired by powerhouse Tony Lyons for Skyhorse Publishing and is being released as a hardcover, E-book, and an Audio Book produced by award-winning May Wuthrich.
No matter what the format, this book, as opera star Renée Fleming notes, is a “moving personal history” with twists and turns that will amaze you, the biggest one of all featured in a recent edition of the New York Post. For starters, we discover that Ed had a harrowing childhood, anything but privileged.
At age three, Ed’s father literally kidnapped him, drove him cross-country, and told him that his mother was dead! Why? Because there had been an acrimonious divorce. And the headstrong father wanted total custody and control.
But the father didn’t raise Ed after all. Off he went overseas for military service and later on other pursuits, leaving his son behind in foster homes and in orphanages. Ed had no mother, an absentee father, no siblings or family comfort. How would you have coped?
But like every heroic protagonist, Ed rose above it. Decades later he would receive the Horatio Alger Award, which honors American leaders who have accomplished incredible feats in spite of sorrowful adversity. You’ll read how Ed used an intense hunger for financial security to drive himself forward. Others with the exact same life circumstances might have fallen into delinquency, addiction or a life of unfulfilled potential.
But as Ed observes, so often in life, there are two figurative roads ‘diverged in a wood,’ a phrase taken from his favorite poem, Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. “I have always moved down new roads, asking myself which direction to go in for more exposure to things that challenge me….reaching higher, testing myself whenever I could.” He shows the reader that with his so-called Four P’s—PASSION, PRINCIPLES, PARTNERS, and PLANS—you can conquer any life difficulty.
And he did. At age 17, Ed earned a scholarship to the University of Rochester, later got a graduate degree at Harvard University, and the rest is history. He ultimately served in the military and then conquered Wall Street as an investment manager and CEO with a storied career at E F. Hutton, Lehman Brothers and beyond. As American composer Andrew Lippa notes: “Look no further than Ed Hajim’s moving memoir about truth, love, and the dream we call America.”
Beyond business, Ed used his resources to become a philanthropist, focused on education and creating scholarships, most notably with a $30 million gift to his alma mater, the University of Rochester. At last, he could help others just as he was helped when he so desperately needed it.
Equally important, he created the kind of family he never had himself with Barbara and their three children and eight grandchildren.
On the subject of family bonds, in a climactic moment of the book that will give you the chills, the story comes full circle when Ed opens up a suitcase filled with letters from his father. In it he discovers that his mother is still alive! And in a poignant moment that will bring you to tears, the twosome are reunited after a fifty year separation.
Here is the unforgettable and moving story of someone who persevered against all odds. As Dr. Dale V. Atkins has written: “Prepare to be deeply moved by On The Road Less Traveled.”
You will be.