Tuesday, April 24, 2012

REVIEW: How to Survive Anything by David & Yetta Kane

How to Survive Anything has been a hard book to review. It makes you take stock of your life and evaluate how you see yourself and your current situation. But I'm getting ahead of myself....

The book is about a couple who lived separate lives prior to World War II and weren’t bothering anybody, but then a poor excuse for a carbon unit decided he wanted to start a war. This couple fought their own battles through that war, on the run, in the camps, and neither survived unscathed.  Mothers, fathers, siblings, entire life histories were lost.

What they did with their lives after emerging from the battlefield is where their story really begins.

What did I learn reading How to Survive Anything by David and Yetta Kane? First, I learned that no matter how tough things have been for me the last few years, I was never in a Nazi concentration camp. The Nazis did not kill members of my family or force me from my home. Second, I learned that no matter how hard things have been for me the last few years (unemployment, moving constantly, scraping by, busted relationships and personal tragedies), they are but a drop in the bucket compared to the overall length of my life, and to wallow on the pain and difficulty of those years is counterproductive to what else life has in store for me. There’s something wonderful beyond where I am; it’s my job to go and find it.

The Kanes tell a story of Rising Above. Fill in your own blank after that.  In their case, the horrors of World War II. In your case…what? Abuse? Sickness? Fear?

After the war the Kanes came to the United States for a new start, and they have certainly made the most of that start. There was no time for a pity party. There were only new opportunities! As a rabbi, David has used his position to change the story of his life from despair, fear, and death, to faith, hope, and love. Who else does that? Why is it so easy to stay negative and define ourselves by our troubles?  And don’t give me any “I don’t like religion” garbage—you don’t have to be religious to “get” their story. This is a story about people of faith, yes, but if you dismiss it because of that you're wrong to do so. What the Kanes made me realize is that the rough patches in life are indeed patches and our attitudes shape how we recover. David Kane tells a great joke about a fellow who broke a leg in an accident, and started laughing.  When asked why he was laughing, the fellow said, “I could have broken them both!”  

The real survivors.
Attitude is everything, they say. You can remain down in the dumps, pulling a woe is me act, but if you do you will always be in that place.

Or you can be determined to survive and stay positive and know that there’s Something More for you Somewhere Out There and go and find it.  It took many years for the Kanes to see the fruits of their efforts; now, with a family that has multiplied beyond their dreams, a ministry, if you will, that reaches thousands every year, they can look the past in the eye and say not only did they survive, but we thrived, and we took what somebody meant for evil and turned it into good. They speak at a lot of high schools, and the letters section of the book, which displays the feedback from students, makes one believe that perhaps the U.S. is more than a population of mush-headed bon-bon sucking half-wits who vote for a hand out.

I don’t mean to write such a charged review, but the constant weeping and gnashing of teeth that Americans have demonstrated since a certain someone was elected in 2008 leaves me sick to my stomach. Students are protesting high tuition costs? Can’t find a job? Gas prices are too high? Can't retire? Cry me a river! Would you prefer to be marched naked into an oven or forced to play a violin while others around you burn stacks of bodies that contain the remains of your relatives? Americans need a wake-up call louder than any trumpet Gabriel can blow.

The Kanes paint a picture of two individuals who said NO to the pity party and carried on with strength and courage.

Remember, Hitler blew his brains out.

But the Kanes are still alive.

You lose, Adolf.

How to Survive Anything by David and Yetta Kane is available at Amazon.Com.  Here is a link to their personal website and I encourage you to check it out.

Your education as a human being is incomplete until you read this book.  It’s going to be one of those books you keep around for when you need a reminder that nothing can defeat you except yourself.


  1. Wow, what a review Brian! Thank you so much. I was the Kanes' editor and shepherded this book from an idea to a beautiful, hardcover edition. The Kanes were wise, funny and always professional and hardworking. Rain or shine, sick or well, they showed up to work on their book. Thanks you for this wonderful review.

  2. Dear Brian,

    This is such a powerful review. This is such an affirmation of the way David and Yetta live their lives. Your writing is not only clear and concise but truly heartfelt as well.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to discover what this book is all about.

    Jerry Kane

    1. Jerry, My pleasure, but Elaine Ash deserves some of the credit for not only building up my interest as she worked on the project but then sending me a copy, too.

      In doing some related research I found an article in the San Jose Mercury News about a visit David & Yetta made to a high school in the South Bay where their grandson attends, which caught my eye because I'm from that area. David was quoted as saying that "Kane" means "Yes" and his attitude is to say "YES" to life. I thought that was a great line and I wish now I had put it in my review, but I will include it here for those who read this far. I think Ian Fleming made a similar point when he told his son to always say yes to adventure lest one lead an uninteresting life, and I can think of no better example of that than David & Yetta. The legacy they have built is remarkable and I'm really glad I came across their work.

  3. Elaine Ash came to me some time ago to inquire about the cost of printing a biography she was working on. I am a print broker, and my job is to find a printer best suited for each project that comes to me. Little could I guess how involved I would be in this book before it was completed.

    Elaine had given me a family biography, meant to be cherished by the Kane family members. But I felt immediately the breadth of the message, the whole wonderous story, the down right, Oh My Godness of it all and was immediately compelled to suggest that they make changes to the book format that would make it more appealing to a wider audience. I had fallen in love with the story, I was so deeply touched by their personal histories and the student responses that I had to give it my all. So we all worked hard and ended up with a beautiful story presented well.

    In the student section I felt reverence for the kids who suddenly felt small, who felt shame upon hearing what had happened to the Kanes during the War, obviously relating this to their own lives and viewpoints. For anyone to change a student's perspective by the simple telling of a story, albeit from the heart, is just short of miraculous, and a moment not likely forgotten, a moment deeply touching, just reading about it. One realizes quickly when reading the Kane's story just how spoiled we all are, but at the same time I was inspired by the effect of the Kanes' message on the young people they spoke to in person. I felt hope. I felt gratitude for what the Kanes are achieving through the telling of the story of their own lives.

    We are in a bad place now in the US, but we should all read this book and go forward with hope and inspiration. I loved your review, I love the Kanes for what they have given us all. Elaine, you are the best, and I love you too.