Franz Wisner seemed to have it all—a great job as a lobbyist in Newport Beach, California, a beautiful house and a fianceé he was madly in love with. But just five days before their wedding, his fianceé called it off. "I was completely crushed," Franz says. "There was something inside of me that said 'reach out to your brother.' Kurt was the first person I called—and it was odd that I called him because we weren't really that close."
With his brother's moral support and with guests who had already planned to attend the wedding, Franz decided to have a party in lieu of a reception. Seventy-five friends and family members gathered over the weekend to prop up his spirits and help him through the tough time.
Franz thought he had made it through the worst of the situation—but when he returned to work the following Monday, he learned that he been demoted. Dumped, demoted and devastated, Franz didn't think it could get any worse until he remembered that his honeymoon tickets to Costa Rica were nonrefundable. "I said, 'Come on, Kurt, we're going on a honeymoon.' I assured him he wouldn't have to carry me over any thresholds."
Kurt says, "I told Franz, 'You have to cancel all the heart-shaped beds. You have to cancel all the roses. And we'll exchange champagne for beer.'"
After Franz and Kurt got home from the honeymoon, they did something really wild: They quit their jobs, sold their houses, gave away their belongings and set out on a two-year adventure around the world. Franz writes about their travels in his book Honeymoon with My Brother.
"Most people," Franz says, "after they've suffered a loss, go to a psychologist or a counselor. We got our lessons from penniless villagers in Africa or cab drivers in Trinidad or 80-year-old backpackers in Vietnam. They really helped prop us up and show us the world."
Before leaving on the final leg of their honeymoon, Kurt and Franz ran into his ex. "We were both completely shocked," Franz says. "I couldn't escape because she was sitting right by the exit of this deli [where] we were ordering sandwiches. ... I went up to her and I gave her a hug—partly because I told people all along [that that's what I'd do]. They said, 'If you ever run into her what would you do?' I said, 'I'd give her a hug because she really did me a huge favor.'"
Immediately after returning from the trip, something life-changing happened to Franz—he fell in love! "I got married," Franz says, "and I actually had a wedding go through to the end." Kurt, the best man, was there by his side—but the bride was late! After some nervous laughter among guests, Franz's bride, actress Tracy Middendorf, finally arrived—just a few minutes behind schedule.
Caron Butler is a starting forward for the L.A. Lakers and a rising star in the NBA. His road to success has not been easy. Growing up on the streets of Racine, Wisconsin, Caron was arrested 15 times before the age of 15. "My role models back then," Caron says, "were pimps, drug dealers." It wasn't long before Caron ended up in a maximum-security detention center, where he would face the most painful time of his life. "It was survival," he remembers. "People were getting raped. You've got murders in there. ... It was a bad environment."
While at the detention center, Caron discovered his love for basketball—it provided a glimmer of hope. His true turning point occurred while he was locked in solitary confinement for two weeks. "I remember writing my mother letters, so many letters, telling her how much I loved her and if I was to get out, I would never, ever hurt her again. ... It was from this moment I knew that I could do anything in life."
Caron says he feels for the young people who are still struggling on the streets, and he takes advantage of opportunities to reach out to them. To a group of kids in the detention center, Caron says that there's pride in walking a straight line, no matter what it takes.
Caron says it's an unbelievable feeling to be playing basketball for the Lakers, and he is thrilled to be living his dream. "It's just fun to do something," he says, "that I really love doing."
Not only does Caron have an exciting future as an NBA star, he's also engaged and planning a wedding with the love of his life!
For Edward Jones, getting fired was the best thing for his career.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World was raised by a single mother who couldn't read or write. Growing up, Edward spent a lot of time in local libraries with his nose in a book. He became the first in his family to graduate from college.
Although he had an English degree, Edward never dreamed of becoming an author, so he took a job at a tax journal. There he worked for 19 years until the company downsized, and he was fired.
Without a job and with plenty of time, Edward sat down at a computer and finally began typing out the story that had been rattling around in his head for a decade.
Edward set out to write five pages a day, starting the day after he lost his job. "I was worried. I had minimal savings," Edward says. "Two months' severance was supposed to come, but I was worried. But I had a plan."
Edward's plan worked! In 2004, The Known World, Edward's first novel, won the Pulitzer Prize and was featured in The Today Show Book Club Series.
"It is the most phenomenal book," Oprah says. "When I tell you it's the best book I have read in 10 years—I do a lot of reading. I would have chosen it as a Book Club book but because the Today show has already done it, a lot of you have already read it. It is worth the Pulitzer Prize."
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