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The Burn Zone: A Memoir


The Burn Zone: A Memoir

The only time I will go out of my way from my steady diet of fiction to imbibe a nice biography or memoir is if I respect the subject or they have a unique story to tell. THE BURN ZONE falls into the latter category. I had never heard of Renee Linnell prior to being sent this book for review. There was really no reason for me to have known her as we run in different circles. What caught my eye was the premise of an intelligent, successful woman losing her will and sense of self when she is taken in by a cult.

I'm a sucker for good quotes, and THE BURN ZONE is chock full of them. It is clear that Renee has spent a lot of time focusing on her life and the decisions she has made. Only a person with that level of self-awareness could have come up with dozens of inspirational quotes that run parallel to the action of her life that she is describing within these pages. Things open up with a brief but meaningful dedication to the weird boy/girl inside all of us --- the one who never fit in, the one who knows we were born to set the world on fire.

That last bit came from a quote by Saint Catherine of Siena. The primary message that readers are to take away from this book is that your difference is your destiny. For someone who shunned the entire idea of self to embrace the cult that had taken control of every aspect of her life, this piece of advice is everything. When Renee realizes that she needs something else in her life, her friend invites her to come to a meditation class. Upon entering, she is immediately captivated by the instructor, a striking woman named Lakshmi.  What especially gets her attention --- and ends up being a perfect “tell” --- is seeing Lakshmi step into the room and take the stage in an expensive pair of high heels.

"THE BURN ZONE definitely spoke to me, and the self-help benefits should do wonders for anyone else who gives this book a try."

During one meditation session, Renee has a transcendent, powerful experience. When she timidly asks what just happened to her, Lakshmi tells her that she was in the burn zone. The feeling is so powerful that it keeps her coming back for more. THE BURN ZONE moves around at times, highlighting events from Renee’s life. She describes her childhood living on a boat in the Bahamas with her parents and brother. Having also resided in Boston, she recalls the challenge her school teachers in Fort Lauderdale had cutting through her unique Bahamian-Boston accent.

Renee’s carefree beginning of life is soon marred by significant loss. She has to deal with the death of her grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousin all before the age of 15. Clearly, as intelligent and successful as Renee was, she had a lot of baggage that gives readers some idea as to how she was easily duped while trying to fill a hole in her life and psyche. She enrolls in Lakshmi's University of Mysticism and, at that time, thinks it is the most significant decision she has ever made.

Renee talks about her young adulthood as being filled with wanderlust that found her always traveling the globe. An early career as a bikini model allowed her to regularly visit exotic locales. What a difference the teachings of the University of Mysticism is when they stress stringent adherence to Buddhist teachings that includes giving up material possessions, money and participation in any activity that does not directly improve one’s inner self and well-being. Needless to say, sleeping around and living like a wild vagabond traversing the globe is frowned upon by her new life instructors.

Renee makes a big mistake when she allows herself to be courted by Vishnu, Lakshmi's right-hand man who is a key member of her faculty and also her own lover. She falls blindly into a strange, obsessive and often one-sided physical relationship with Vishnu. Things begin to spiral out of control, particularly when Lakshmi singles out Renee as a failure and instructs the other students to shun her. When she begins to stand up for herself and figure out what the University of Mysticism is really all about, Vishnu fires her.

Not wanting to give anything else away, let me just say that Renee's comeback, reclamation and finally accepting herself for what she is provides for quite an engaging read. She has an easy, believable writing style that makes you think she is talking directly to you in a private conversation. I would like to think that the one thing Renee took from her involvement with Buddhism was living life like a Bodhisattva. No, I'm not referring to the Steely Dan song, but rather a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings. Well, THE BURN ZONE definitely spoke to me, and the self-help benefits should do wonders for anyone else who gives this book a try.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 26, 2018

The Burn Zone: A Memoir
by Renee Linnell

  • Publication Date: October 9, 2018
  • Genres: Inspirational, Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press
  • ISBN-10: 1631524879
  • ISBN-13: 9781631524875