Book Review: Life, In Spite of Me

Recently, I received a free review copy of Life, In Spite of Me:  Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice.

I remember seeing Kristen Anderson on an Oprah show about people who survived suicide.  This book (written with Tricia Goyer) tells the story of how Kristen survived her suicide attempt.  She lost both of her legs in the attempt and went on to live a life of happiness and purpose.

I was fascinated by this book and couldn’t put it down.  I put myself in her situation–how would I go on in that situation?  Kristen eventually finds hope in her faith in Christ.

Here’s more information, provided by the publicist:

After her fatal choice… extraordinary hope.

Why does my life have to be so painful?
What’s wrong with me?
It’s not going to get better.
It could all be over soon, and then I won’t hurt anymore.

Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook on life. Once a happy child, Kristen’s world darkened after three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a depression that didn’t seem to have a bottom.

One January night, the seventeen-year-old made a decision: She no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited-for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.

Fear coursed through me. I squeezed my eyes tighter.
It’s going to be over now. The pain is going to end. I’ll be in heaven soon.
As the train whistle blew, the vibration of my body stilled.
The sound stopped. The wind stopped. The train stopped.
Am I dead yet?

Amazingly, Kristen survived her suicide attempt… but the 33 freight cars that ran over her severed her legs. Now she not only had to deal with depression; she also had to face the physical pain and life without legs.

But Kristen’s story didn’t end there. After her darkest days Kristen discovered a real purpose for living. Now, in her compelling book Life, In Spite of Me, Kristen shares her journey from despair to hope.

Includes letters from Kristen that share messages she wishes someone would have told her-when she was depressed and struggling with loss, shame from sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-four books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005.

In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions.  She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more info, please visit

You can find other bloggers talking about this book here.

Here a book, there a book . . .

100_1495_1.jpgThese books lined up on my bed were removed from my bookshelf. The bookshelf shows the books AFTER the books on the bed were removed. I was looking for my copy of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. In order to do so, I had to remove the first layer of books to see what was behind. I found some old books that I put into a pile to read again soon, along with a few new ones I decided to read sooner rather than later.


This book reorganization did not result in finding my copy of Into the Wild. Alas. At some point, I must have passed it along to someone else to read and now I regret my generosity. In fact, I’m ordering myself a new one because I simply must read it again before I see the movie version, coming out soon. (Friday?) I read that book back when I’d never heard of the author, nor the story. I sort of feel like I personally discovered Jon Krakauer.

Oh, and just so you know . . . this is just one of my bookshelves. The matching one holds non-fiction and until I decide I simply must find a book I remember owning at some point in my life, that bookshelf will remain dusty and double-stacked.

(I put all the books back. I am going to read them all, even if I have to live to be 150.)

I’m boring, but I read a lot

You couldn’t really be interested in the fact that I bought a pillow tonight. Or in the happy fact that I purchased said pillow on clearance, paying less than $30.00 for the king-sized down-filled item, including a set of 600 thread count pillowcases. (Full price for pillowcases and pillow would have been $75.00.)
Unfortunately, that is about the highlight of my day. The rest of time was allotted to cleaning up the kitchen, putting away the last of the stuff from Vacation Bible School, and sitting poolside for two hours while the kids swam in the deserted pool. (Overcast day today and no one was at the pool.) Oh, and answering email.
I was also working on a writing assignment (just sent it off into the wild blue yonder).Today, it’s boring to me be.

Tomorrow, it will be painful to be me as I’m having a tooth extracted. I fully expect to drool blood and otherwise venture to the brink of death because I am dramatic like that.

Tonight, I am eating popcorn because when will I be able to chew again?

Then, I will sleep peacefully on my king-sized pillow.

Oh! But I have to ask. Has anyone read Jodi Picoult’s Plain Truth? Because if you have, we must talk. I finished it on vacation. Before that, I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Have you read that? Oh. My. What a book! (Did I already rave about it?) And after that, I read Girl, Interrupted. I’ve never seen the movie, but now I want to.

So, what are you reading? And, do you love your pillow or feel indifferent toward it?

Books I Can’t Forget

When I was a child, I read voraciously–the backs of cereal boxes, Reader’s Digest in the bathroom, any book my parents left on a table, and books from the library that caught my eye.
Here are a few I can’t believe I read as a child, but I did, and I still remember them vividly.

Charles Colson’s Born Again. Published in 1976. I was 11. I had no idea what “Watergate” even meant, but I plowed through this book, developing an interest in the lives of prisoners even then. (Colson went on to start a ministry to prisoners called Prison Fellowship.)

Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. Published in 1969, when I was four, but obviously, I read it later. But while still young. I could never forget the women that committed the grisly crimes, nor could I begin to understand. I also read Susan Atkin’s book, Child of Satan, Child of God, (published in 1977 when I was 12) and continue my interest in her story. (Every once in awhile, she’s in the news because she comes up for parole. Frankly, I think she should be paroled.)
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier (published in 1948) still has a place on my bookshelf, though I’ve only read it twice. The first time, as a mere girl I was sucked into the other world of that book and drowned in the emotion.

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill (published in 1963) barged right into my suburban childhood, scaring me to death. From the back cover:

The tortured face of a young killer, one of seven boys on trial for a brutal murder, started country preacher David Wilkerson on his lonely crusade to the most dangerous streets in the world. Violent gangs ruled by warlords, drug pushers and pimps held the streets of New York’s ghettoes in an iron grip. It was into this world that David Wilkerson stepped, armed only with the simple message of God’s love and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s power. Then the miracles began to happen. The Cross and the Switchblade is one of the most inspiring and challenging true stories of all time. It has sold millions of copies throughout the world and has been made into a feature film.

(And the film starred Erik Estrada, before he was a famous motorcycle police officer.)

Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place (co-written, or maybe ghost-written by John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill), published in 1971 (when I was 6), was my first introduction to the Holocaust. Corrie’s true story tells about her family’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis, first while in hiding and resisting, and then in concentration camps. I have never, ever forgotten details about this story, even though I only read it once when I was a child.

Legend of the Seventh Virgin by Victoria Holt (published 1965, the year I was born) is one of the first romance novels I ever read. I remember it for its impression on me (loved it intensely), but can’t remember a thing about the story. Nevertheless, when I found a used copy, I bought it for my bookshelf, though I’ve never read it again. (And I rarely read romance novels these days.)
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, published in 1977, when I was twelve . . . look! I read an actual children’s book when I was a child. I loved this book and still think about collecting coins from fountains, inspired by this book. (I never read it again, but I ought to.)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder) (and the subsequent books by each author) made me long for a childhood in a sod house or in a house lit entirely by lanterns and candles. I also thought I’d be more like the mother in each of those books than the mother I actually turned out to be.

Some childhood books I never read, but intend to read:

All the Anne of Green Gable books. I even have them on my shelf.

Books I never plan to read:

All the Nancy Drew books.

And this concludes my jaunt down library lane. What wildly inappropriate book did you read as a child? (Or were my parents the only ones who paid no attention to what I read?)

[Oh, and I am one of those people who always reads magazines cover to cover, front to back.  Although, I’m busier now and skip some things, but I always flip through in order, no skipping around.  Then, when I’m finished, I fold over the front corner of the magazine to remind myself I finished reading it.  I have a lot of these Rules for Living, but no one else abides by them!]

You didn’t ask, but here’s what I think

What have I been doing besides cursing Gmail?  Well, watching “American Idol,” of course. 

I’m also reading Peace Like a River which is hogging all my spare time.  And I’m busy fixing snacks for my daughter who asks for, but does not eat, a snack every fifteen minutes, including the meatloaf she rejected at dinnertime.  She wanted it right before bed . . . but did not eat it.  Tonight, I was reclined on my bed, reading and she came flopping in, asking me to get her water bottle downstairs.  I said, “No, I’m too tired!” and she said, “No, I’m more tired than you.”  (I won the argument, just so you know.)

By the way, I think Lisa Rinna seems like a lovely, if overly-perky woman, but whenever I see her on television (a lot lately, due to “Dancing with the Stars”), I cannot stop staring at her upper lip.  I know.  I am shallow and I should be half the beauty she is.  But still.  STOP WITH THE LIP ENHANCEMENTS, YOU HOLLYWOOD STARS!  (If her lips are natural, I extend my most sincere apologies for my judgmental attitude.)

Sometimes, I feel like the most ancient woman in the world . . . especially when I read other mothers asking “how do I make my toddler son stop hitting me?”  Really?  Seriously?  YOU JUST DO!  I fear for our society in which mothers can’t figure out how to make little ones obey.  Pick up the kid, shout “NO!”, deposit him in his room.  No fuss, no muss.  Rinse and repeat.  Or, if you are opposed to shouting, stand up, walk out of the room and ignore the little ankle-biter.  Just be consistent.  Geez.  Do not tolerate misbehavior.  Either I have turned into a curmudgeon or I am the victim of hormones.  I think it’s the former.  I’m also old and will not tolerate tomfoolery. 

That is all.  Carry on.  

Dusty emptiness

If I were a house, I’d be waiting for tenants to move in.

If I were a lot, I’d be vacant.

If I were an Easter bunny, I’d be hollow.

If I were a milk carton, I’d be empty in the fridge.

If I were a marker, I’d be dried out.

Lucky for us both, I’m none of the above.  And despite the echoes in my head, I managed to post a little something over at the Larger Families blog.  We were supposed to do a photoblog of our Mother’s Day and somehow I missed those directions.  I had nothing.  You’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get over this stupid cold.  And I keep falling asleep while reading The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene . . . which I love . . . I just can’t stay awake.

Saturday: Books and a movie

I consider it akin to a miracle when I open my eyes in the morning, peer at the clock and realize it is 8:35 a.m.  Even though I escorted my 4-year old to the bathroom at 4:00 a.m. and spent a couple of minutes rocking her, a night with only one interruption and a wake-up time after 7:00 a.m. is a delight and also more proof that I have very low standards. 

What’s lovely about my youngest child reaching the age of 4 and a half is that she no longer demands that I rouse from bed at an ungodly hour.  She didn’t sleep through the night until she was eleven months old.  My twins used to wake up every morning between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. which is just wrong on so many levels.  My husband had mercy on me in those long-ago days and would wake up early so I could sleep longer.  He rocks.

Today, after “sleeping in,” we finally got moving after 9:00 a.m.  My husband went to get donuts (around here, Saturday is called “Donut Day”) and I showered.  While still in the shower, the phone rang and my daughter, the self-appointed phone-answerer around here, brought me the phone.  I asked the woman on the phone if I could call her back.  I was sure she could hear the showering water, but she told me later that she did not.  (I wonder if talking on the phone in the shower could electrocute me.  Anybody know?)

My husband has learned after many years together (almost 20!) that I require some time alone each week for optimum mental health.  Back when the twins were babies, I had a local friend who had given birth to three kids in three years.  She told me that her husband set her free for six hours each Saturday . . . and I remember being so jealous and wondering why my husband didn’t understand that I needed six hours away each Saturday.  As it turns out, he just needed more time to understand.  Also, when I was gone for six straight days (my longest absence from home ever), he experienced what it’s like to be stuck in a cycle of satisfying the needs of four kids hour after hour, day after day. 

Now, he really understands, even more than he did before. 

So, he doesn’t make me grovel and beg.  He just assumes that I will leave the house and I will stay away as long as possible.  Which I do.  

Today, I went to three thrift stores where I mainly bought books.  I love books with an irrational love, with an addictive love, with a love that cannot be satisifed with a library card.  I also saw the worst movie in recent memory:  Perfect Stranger with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis.  Horrible screenplay, silly dialogue, inconsistent characters, awful acting, stupid plot, ridiculous dialogue . . . only the popcorn was good!  Save your money . . . watch it free on television in five years.  (How can a woman who is so beautiful make such a lousy movies?)

What I’m Reading

The problem with library books is that you have to read them within three weeks or pay fines. I’m paying fines on two books because I just couldn’t finish them in time.

I read P.D. James’ A Time to Be In Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography recently. I really enjoyed it. I sought out this autobiography after wondering what P.D. James thought about having her book, Children of Men, made into a movie which hardly resembled the novel at all. Unfortunately, P.D. James has no real Internet presence (no blog for her!) and so I turned to her other writings. (I’m guessing now that she hates hates hate when they did to her novel.)

I’ve never read a P.D. James murder mystery, but after reading her autobiography, I look forward to reading her body of work, starting from the beginning.

Meanwhile, here are some quotes from the autobiography which struck me:

I began writing Cover Her Face when I was in my mid-thirties. It was a late beginning for someone who knew from early childhood that she wanted to be a novelist and, looking back, I can’t help regretting what I now see as some wasted years. In the war there was always the uncertainty of survival and one needed more determination and dedication than I possessed to embark on an 80,000-word work when the bombs were falling and lack of paper made it difficult for anyone new to get published. There is also in my nature that streak of indolence which made it more agreeable to contemplate the first book than actually to begin writing it. It was easier, too, to see the war years as a preparation for future endeavor rather than an appropriate time to begin. I can remember the moment, but not the date, when I finally realized that there would never be a convenient time to write my first book and that, unless I did make a start, I would eventually be saying to my grandchildren that what I had wanted to be was a novelist. Even to think of speaking these words was a realization of potential failure.

And this:

There is no point in regretting any part of the past. The past can’t now be altered, the future has yet to be lived, and consciously to experience every moment of the present is the only way to gain at least the illusion of immortality.

I also read a biography called Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air. I knew nothing about Anne Morrow Lindbergh other than the fact that she wrote the classic, Gift from the Sea (which I read immediately after finishing the biography.) What an interesting life she led–she and her husband, Charles, flew many exploratory routes in the early days of aviation–back in the day when they flew by sight, not by instruments. And then, of course, there is the tragedy of the kidnapping of their firstborn son when he was less than two years old. (The baby was murdered.) Back in their day, Anne and Charles were hounded by the press, much like celebrities of today. So much has changed in the world, yet so much has stayed the same.

Now, I’m finished with the library books, ready to start reading something new. Fiction, I think. I have literally hundreds of books on my shelves waiting to be read . . . a glut of reading material, an overabundance, too many choices.

What are you reading?

My Talking Phone

My phone woke me last night at midnight.  Only it wasn’t ringing.  It talked in a bossy woman’s voice, something about resetting the time.  Earlier in the evening, we’d had a momentary power outage and that provoked the phone.  Sure, I noticed the blinking “CL”–whatever that means–but I didn’t think it would wake me up by speaking in a woman’s voice.  But it did.

I woke with a start and flapped around, slapping all the buttons, poking around at the handset and finally settling back to sleep.  Then it happened again at 3:00 a.m. . . . and I repeated my stellar performance, blindly swinging at the base before flopping back on my pillow.  I spent the rest of the night in anxious suspense, waiting for the phone to demand to be reset.

I read a book (Derailed) the last couple of days.  The story was fast-paced and sleazy, really, but what really bothered me was the author’s frequent use of sentence fragments.  For instance, he’d end a paragraph with something like this:  “Waiting for the train to pull into the station.” 

I find that sort of writing so distracting.  (Because I am such a famous published novelist, I can judge these things.  Ha.)

Anyway, it was a quick read.  I thought I’d improve my mind by reading Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” but now I’m worried a little because the introductory notes are complicated and I feel like I’m a high school sophomore facing required reading.

All the same, I’m going to read on.  But not tonight. 

Tonight, I have muffled the phone–well, pushed a button that made the “CL” stop blinking–and hopefully, we’ll have a silent night.