A few days before I started the book, Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice, I watched a cheesy low budget movie in which a character is hit by a train, amputating both of his legs, and survives. I remember rolling my eyes at my husband, and saying something to the effect of, "Oh that's realistic. Like you could live through getting run over by a train."
And then I picked up Life, In Spite of Me: the raw, unflinching, and painfully honest story of hope and recovery lived by Kristen Jane Anderson after she chose to lay down on a railroad track, ready to end it all.
The book was incredibly difficult to read, especially as someone who has dealt with depression myself, but that relatability was also what made it so great. Ms Anderson takes the reader fully inside her journey, and doesn't gloss over the agonizing, heart-wrenching moments of despair. We feel it with her as we read, which makes the ultimate story of survival and renewed faith all the more inspiring. What could have easily been a depressing and dreary book is instead one that's incredibly uplifting and joy-filled. She skillfully weaves her back story with her physical recovery and her path to finding strength, encouragement and new hope through Jesus. I could not put the book down, and even after I finished it I wanted more, more, more.
This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand what it means to have true faith in God and a desire to share it with others, and especially for those who know what it's like to be in the grips of anxiety and depression. A truly beautiful and hopeful story.
On a personal note, I tweeted the author when I was finished, to let her know how much I liked it. She responded to me personally within the hour. Simply a lovely soul, inside and out.
Do you need encouraged? Inspired? This book delivers. Kristen Jane Anderson gives us her tragic story that becomes transformed by the Lord into triumph. A suicide attempt on a train track left her a double amputee. She should never have lived (that's no exaggeration as the book proves), but she did. Listen to her story and finally see the hand of God become clear.
I had never heard her story until my wife, a paraplegic herself, had been reading about Ms. Anderson and was fascinated by it. That intrigued me, but I began reading thinking I would decide for myself. I did and it was a page turner!
When you read the advertisements that this book is a tool for suicide prevention, don't assume that is all the book is about. Yes, every person contemplating suicide needs this book. Beyond that, though, every person fighting depression, or even a round of discouragement, will find this volume a rallying cry to not give up. Actually, if all you are looking for is a story of the mighty power of God on a life, grab this book. It reads easy and holds your attention throughout.
What makes this book work? Ms. Anderson doesn't hold back. No matter how unpleasant the detail, if it is needed to tell her story, she tells it. Depression, partying, all the things that added to the darkness she went through are given in all the gory details. At the same time, dark things are never glamorized. She tells us what she thought and felt each step of the way.
Adjusting to her new found disability was shown in a clear way that as one who watched his wife adjust, I could relate. I thought that part was especially well done. Then, there was guilt. It haunted her through everything and we find where she found victory. Even with counseling and dealing with prescription drug issues we are let into her life. Failures, setbacks, and finally success are laid bare.
The point where she found Christ was an emotional high in the book where you felt like cheering. Later, when her loving mother did the same, you find yourself excited again. Finally, there's the lesson she learned-a loving God saved her on a train track so He could save her soul later. A lady with so much sadness became a lady filled with love and gratitude. Ms. Anderson, thank you for sharing your story that clearly can help so many.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 .
Like any good story, Life, In Spite of Me draws you in from the first paragraph. The reader's heart and mind are engaged immediately. The difference between this book and any novel...this is not a work of fiction.
I value openness and honesty above many other traits. I want to be genuine and real, and I appreciate these characteristics in others. The author, Kristen Jane Anderson and her co-author, Tricia Goyer, reveal the thoughts and feelings of a young woman so distraught over the hurts and unanswered questions of life that she sought to take her own life.
It's true that the word "miracle" is tossed around a lot. However, when we become aware of a genuine miracle, it has the power to stop us in our tracks. We are challenged to consider life's big questions. What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? Do I really matter?
According to the experts, Kristen should not have survived. God, however, had other plans and performed a miracle - not just for this young woman and those who love her, but for the thousands, if not millions, her story will impact.
Who should read Life, In Spite of Me? Those who are depressed or suicidal. Those searching for hope in the face of life's challenges. Those who love someone going through a difficult time. Men and women. The young and not so young. All those who enjoy a good book.
Life, In Spite of Me does not take long to read, but the impact could very well last a lifetime.
I received a free copy of the ebook from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out their site for more info.
"Disbelief filled me. I was looking at my legs...lying about ten feet away."
Kristen Jane Anderson, the co-author of Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice, is also the main character in the non-fiction work. As a 17-year-old girl struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness, with nobody telling her differently, she attempts to commit suicide, by laying down on a train track in front of an oncoming train. She survives, even when by all medical and engineering accounts she should have died. However, the train takes both of her legs, leading to a long recovery, and the repetitious refrain of "God must have kept you alive for a reason, Kristen."
The book begins with the night in question, and works both backwards to define how she came to the point of wanting to end it all, and forwards to where she works through both the physical recovery and the spiritual struggle of why she is still alive. She questions whether she would have gone to Heaven or Hell had she been successful, and she begins to work forward in her relationship with God. Her recovery isn't easy, and she relapses several times into depression, before she begins to realize "focusing on myself was the wrong thing to do. God should have been my main focus...and he wasn't." Once she turns her eyes and focus to God, she finds that she has "a beautiful story to share." From there, she feels the call to minister to others who may find themselves hopeless, and lost in darkness with nobody else to show them the Light.
The story of Kristen is an amazing one. Although it speaks directly to readers who may have considered suicide, or know someone who might, it also speaks of God's amazing grace and goodness, his faithfulness to get us through even the toughest, unimaginable situations. Kristen is honest in speaking of her weaknesses, and the story is a compelling transition from a lost soul to one found in Christ. I was amazed that Kristen even came to the point where she was "grateful" for having lost her legs, and could say that it was "worth it," because it brought her to to Christ, and it gave her the opportunity to speak to countless people who were struggling through Reaching You Ministries.
I give this book 4 stars out of 5.
I received this book for free to review as a part of the Blogging for Books program through Waterbrook Multnomah publishing group. I was not required to provide a positive review.