Monday, February 7, 2011

Life, In Spite of Me - Book Review

I really wanted to love this book. When I ordered Life, In Spite of Me written by Kristen Jane Anderson as told to Tricia Goyer as my first book for review, I was really excited about receiving it, and when it came in the mail, I was ready to jump in and hear a really great story. In hindsight, that may have been where things went down hill for me. Have you ever gone to a movie after seeing all the commercials with high hopes only to be disappointed when you actually got there? That's what happened to me with this book, except all the commercial were in my own imagination and somehow all on my own I built it up for something greater than it actually turned out to be.

As you can see, the cover shows a beautiful young woman who seems to have a lot of joy with the bright smile and laughter expressed across her face. Her story starts in a much darker time in her life. As a senior in high school, she found herself, after a series of heartbreaking events that exacerbated teenage struggles, finding it very difficult to find purpose in or even pleasure in life. Overwhelmed by emotion, blinded by pain she decided to end her own life.

Life, In Spite of Me tells the tragic consequences of Kristen's failed suicide attempt and the aftermath of her decision. It's a good testimony of God's redeeming love and the scriptural truth that God will "work all things together for good" when we come into personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My problem with the story was that for the first eighteen chapters of the book, I found it difficult to connect to Kristen, the main character of the story. When in the 19th chapter I finally found myself somewhat rooting for her and a little more engaged in the story, I had already been forcing myself through the book for so long, I was more interested in how many pages were left than how much more story she had to tell.

The graphic details of her suicide attempt and some of the specific physical consequences bothered me. I'm the kind of person who when there is violence on the screen of a move I am watching has to look away. As I read some of the physical details in the book, I felt the same way, except you can't actually do that when you ar ereading a book. That may not be an issue for other readers and may speak more specifically to my own personality, but it was a challenge for me.

Also, at the end of a few of the chapters, Kristen stopped to take a moment to write a personal note to the reader. In concept, I understood the idea. She wanted to reach out to the readre who might be struggling with specific challenges, ordeals that she was in the chapter just finished. Instead though it felt like sort of a trite interruption. Addressing big issues in a short paragraph falls short, and honestly, I felt like the break in the story was disruptive without being effective.

There is also a portion of the book where she jumped several years in just a few short paragraphs. At the first point she did so, honestly, it felt like being deserted in the middle of what could have been a good story. Instead, it ended abruptly and the beginning of the next chapter an entire season of her life had passed without any detail. I realize when you are writing a life story, or even a portion of it, you have to narrow down to significant events, but the way it was written, I found it difficult to really grasp some of the events significance at all.

Bottom line, I am not sure whether or not a married mom of three is the target audience for this book. Though saying that, I think a good testimony would impact anyone who would hear it. Honestly, the telling of this testimony felt very detached and wasn't very engaging at all. At the end I could appreciate it more, but not enough to give the book a rave review. The story was interesting, but not compelling. I was really hoping from the background of the book that it would have been a more compelling story. Which I actually feel kind of bad about saying, because I would never actually dare to question someone's testimony, but in the form of this book, it just wasn't what I had hoped it would be.

Now, having said that, I am willing to pass this book along for someone else to read. See if your opinion differs from mine. Maybe my critical review will lower your expectations enough that you will enjoy it more. Some of the best movies I have ever seen were the result of not expecting much from them. So maybe I have set up someone else for a great read! If you would like a chance to win my copy of this book, head on over to this link and rate my reviews here and here and leave a comment here on the blog by Saturday, February 12 @ 12 p.m. PST. Make sure to include a way to get in touch with you. You can click on the title of the book at the beginning of the review to visit the publisher's page with details, excerpts and even videos related to the author and her story.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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