Life in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice (2010) by Kristen Jane Anderson, with Tricia Goyer, is a fascinating and hard to put down read. Kristen was an ordinary, happy girl until she hit her teenage years. A combination of tragedies, such as a friend’s suicide, acquaintance rape, and a family history of major depression, drives Kristen to try to take her own life. Hopelessness, however, slowly turns to hope due to her miraculous survival. Somehow the young woman is run over by a train and lives to tell the tale, her legs severed but otherwise her body intact. At first Kristen still wants to die, but people keep telling her that God spared her life for a reason. Kristen turns from a lukewarm believer in God to a Christian, and dedicates her life to helping other people through God.
The young woman’s story could possibly save lives and shows that everyone is put on Earth for a reason. The book isn’t overly preachy, and Kristen doesn’t consign all suicide victims to hellfire, which is commendable in itself. One might take umbrage, as the author of this review does, with a section in the book where her new preacher tells Kristen that she would not have gone to hell for killing herself, BUT she would have gone to hell for not being a Christian. We’re talking about a 17 year-old girl here, not quite an adult, and Jesus would have sent her to eternal damnation? One also might find that replacing her un-Christian friends completely, as she appears to have done, sort of wrong considering some some of her friends were loyal after her attempt on her life. This isn’t to say she should have continued with their ways, mind. Perhaps she didn’t abandon her friends, but it just wasn’t covered in the memoir? The criticisms though are only a minor sideline in the book in an otherwise excellent story of redemption.
Kristen’s story is told in simple, flowing prose appropriate for both teens and adults. The author doesn’t gloss over the events leading up to the suicide attempt, but she isn’t horrifyingly graphic about what she endured to the point of wanting to slam the book shut. One, however, feels her pain as she relates her feelings before and after her suicide attempt.
This book deserves four out of five stars and is ideal for those touched by depression or suicide, or those looking for a reason to live.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received this book in exchange for a review with no other compensation. Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group’s “Blogging for Books” program is at http://bloggingforbooks.org Got a blog? Get in the program. Free books!
Fun added bonus part exclusive to my blog: To my regulars and whoever: Would y’all read this? If you would or wouldn’t, is it in part due to my review? Do y’all like my style of reviewing this, and if not, what’s wrong with you? Lastly, would you think it fair for a 17 year-old to be thrown into hell just because she failed to be a member of the exclusive Club Christian? Does calling Christianity a club make me a bad Christian? Discuss!
Here is a helping of poems for this week’s Poetry Potluck. http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com. Tell me what you really think, will get around to changing “freaking’ on my last Potluck offering and answering everyone too!
An Ambidextrous Life
My interests are like my hands, ambidextrous;
And I have never met anyone else ambidextrous.
I take up my pen with my left hand,
but use my scissors with the right.
I think it’s day but secretly wonder if it might be night.
Okay, I will try not to write more ‘kill a buzz’ poetry next time, though y’all were awesome about the last one. It even got published on http://katemclaughlin.net, a successful author’s mental health blog. Coolest. Thing. Ever. Y’all won’t hold it against me if I break out into a stirring rendition of “Fame! I’m gonna live forever!” Shoot, I even feel as though I’ve got “Bette Davis Eyes” and that “I’m Walking on Sunshine, baby, yeah.”
I’m feeling so magnanimous today that I’m going to share one of the things that OCD does to virtually everyone who has it: Rabid perfectionism. Cujo-trying-to-attack-style. Just when my mind thinks I’ve figured out a way to do something, that I’ve planned it out perfectly, Nervous Nelly will interject, “Nah girl, you ain’t doing that right. Try harder, loserrr.” If it ain’t Nervous Nelly in my head saying such, my mother is apt to say something that I will misconstrue as a criticism, which will turn me all ‘Sybilish’ and my mom and I end up having words. I want to be perfect and as good as everyone else, but my standards for myself are wayyyyyyyy too high. The really fun part is therapy and antidepressants just dampen it a tad. I can’t seem to stop. Irksome! But anyway, here I drop a rhyme about it for this week’s Poetry Pot Luck at http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com . Tell me the truth if you don’t like it , in a nice way, of course!
Some people ask me why do you do such a thing?
Can it really be a comfort, or are you just not listening?
Are you just being difficult?
Are you just trying to make us mad?
No, I’m not. Yes, I am.
No. Yes. Maybe.
I’m not sure? I hope not.
I don’t think so…
I am difficult and I am crazy
in my own convoluted way.
Well, you should stop, they say.
I don’t think you understand.
All people are driven forward by their minds.
I move forward but I’m three steps behind.
You go your way, but I must stay and listen to my mind.
I’ve been blogging now since March, and since my very first post mentioned 9-11, I’m going to excerpt it, but also give you a link to the whole post should you not have read it. Here is the link to the whole post:
For those of you who would rather not read my whole post, here is the part pertaining to 9-11, plus some background from my childhood:
Example Two – Lisa in “Well, At Least the World Isn’t Ending”
When I was little I was afraid of the world ending, and particularly that either my mom or I would be roasting in hell-fire for eternity. I went to a Christian school, mainly because the school had afterschool care, and Mom figured I would mainly be saying my prayers and learning about Jesus. Um wrong.
I learned that I was A SINNER and God spared only those who were true Christians and had the Lord in their hearts.
But I was a SINNER, EVIL, EVIL SINNER and off to Hell I would go where I would suffer eternal agony. Forever and ever. This is a tad much to swallow at the age of 6. Especially when our teacher would say such comforting things like, “If you think you see or hear things in the dark it’s just the devil trying to scare you, but if you’re a Christian he can’t hurt you.” Well joy to the world. It would have been a comfort to me IF I was sure I was really a Christian. BUT WHAT IF I WASN’T REALLY A CHRISTIAN??? What if I wasn’t saved? Maybe I didn’t say the prayer right? Maybe I might not love Jesus as much as I am supposed to love Him?
And so I prayed. And then I prayed, and when I got done with that pretty soon I prayed some more. Same thing every time. ”Please come into my heart, please forgive me of my sins.” I didn’t feel Him inside my heart literally or figuratively.
One day, when I was safely delivered from the good teacher and her views of the devil, etc., the end of the world occurred. We had a new teacher because thankfully our first teacher got mad and walked out in the middle of class when her best friend got fired. I was so happy. God was in His heaven and all was right with the world. This woman actually liked me, where as the previous teacher despised me. In fact, this teacher almost worshipped me. Never before and never since has anyone liked me that much (I don’t think she could have children and me being the odd one out, I sparked an overwhelming desire to have a child , and my mom worried she would kidnap me -but all that’s another story for another time). Yes, she loved me and it was wonderful, so I doubt it was artifice and she really did think the world had ended.
One day the sky seemed thick and cloudy, and an orange haze filled the air. In fact, there was even big ashes snowing down at intervals. Everyone speculated that the world was ending in our little school, and if the teachers believed it, then it was true, right? I remember being very afraid. What if I never saw my mom again?
Yes, the world was ending…..That is until the principal’s husband showed up and told how there was a bad forest fire in the next county and the wind was blowing ashes and smoke all the way over here. Jeez, I was a stupid kid, but at least the adults were dumbasses too.
Well enough of this childhood trauma stuff and fast forward to being 24. By that time I had made my peace with Jesus. I now believed that Hell didn’t exist, that a loving God would not condemn the world to being rotisseried for eternity. I had no interest in judging others when I was such a flawed person myself and believed (and believe now too) that Jesus was a bleeding heart liberal like me though he was cool with the Republicans too. We’re all people, right? (Except Ann Coulter maybe, heh). So this is my mindset on that awful day of September 11, 2001, though I still prayed to excess on my simple goal of being perfect, the world ending got filed in the back of my mental filing cabinet of fears.
We hadn’t had the TV on all morning. It was now around 1:30pm and my mom was driving me to class, so I turned on the radio to listen to some music. I had it on an R&B station, but instead of the usual waiting to hear a half-way decent song, the announcers were talking about praying for the nation and how Washington was under full alert. No planes in the air, they told, and they don’t know if we’re being invaded or how many thousands might be dead.
Now may it never be said that I claim to be the sharpest nail in the toolbox. What did I think was happening? I had no idea, but it was awful. The sky was finally falling, Chicken Little, like you always knew it would. It flashed in my mind that the world was ending. I felt like that 6 year-old I once was, waiting to be left to hell in the final judgement. So when I heard what had actually happened, that the world had not ended, Lord help me at the relief I felt. It was like “Oh, thank God the world isn’t ending. It’s just a terrorist attack!” And in this way. my OCD once again spared me from reality by expecting the worst of the worst and numbing me to the thing that was almost the worst of the worst. I stayed home from school for a couple days since the state port and federal courthouse are near the community college, but I remember no real panic on my part for myself, but I also could have been in shock. I didn’t have to think the horror until it was a little easier to take. Numbed by my joy that the world was not ending I didn’t have to think about the things that would later become vivid and terrible in my mind. The terror of the passengers on those planes. The picture I would see of the priest being carried out lifeless when he had been there giving the last rites to the dying. Not knowing whether your family and friends were alive. Would I have followed orders and stayed in the second tower like bosses had told their employees? And the worst one…..having to decide between death by falling out of a window or being burned alive. So I’m grateful for the OCD and/or stupidity that spared me a bit on that awful day.
I am going to make my way in this blog on a metaphorical bridge of thoughts and perceptions from day to day to try to connect the known with the yet unknown. My bridge is like a single plank which will require the supplement of others.