Endopocalypse

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After being diagnosed with endometriosis last year, I have been increasingly interested in the stories of women who have suffered from this disease. While looking for such memoirs, I stumbled upon Endopocalypse and was drawn to its dramatic title, and its subtitle that reads: “It Won’t Kill You, but it will make You Wish You Were Dead.” Finally! Here was someone who got just how painful this disease is! I started reading and immediately found myself relating to the pain that Nicole Jones suffered.

Endopocalypse by Nicole A. Jones
Endopocalypse by Nicole A. Jones

In her memoir, Nicole Jones describes her deteriorating health due to endometriosis. At one time, Nicole was healthy and physically active. Over time, though, she began to suffer increasingly severe pain and gynecological symptoms. These symptoms quickly became all-consuming, disrupting her work and family life.

Nicole describes the doctor’s appointments, the differing diagnoses, and the lack of proper treatment for women suffering from endometriosis. She writes about the difficulties of balancing work and a major illness. The inability of doctors, coworkers, and family to take her pain seriously is a recurring problem in the months of pain described in this memoir.

No Happy Ending for Women with Endometriosis

The book ends on a sour note. Nicole has refused additional hormone therapy because the therapy is not proven to help endometriosis and comes with severe side effects. Her daughter and husband are angry with her for not taking the hormones, and she is forced to manage her pain.

There is no cure for endometriosis. For decades, doctors have used hormone therapies to try to mask the symptoms. Those experiencing only mild symptoms may find birth control pills manage their symptoms well. Others endure hormone injections (either Depo Provera or Lupron) that (1) are expensive, (2) don’t work, and (3) cause often long-term side effects.

My Own “Endopocalypse”

I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019 after a laparoscopic surgery in August. During the surgery, the doctor removed some of the endometriosis. He prescribed Orilissa, which was then denied by my insurance. My insurance insisted that I try Lupron injections first.

In my desperation, I was willing to try anything. Immediately following my Lupron injection, I went to the hospital because the injection was causing me to be dizzy and disoriented. But the next day I felt great. For five weeks, I felt relief from my endometriosis pain. The injection, however, was supposed to provide twelve weeks of relief.

The pain came back, and with a vengeance. As of writing this, I am waiting to see an endometriosis specialist. I have watched as my body has endured the side effects of this medication. Most notable is the damage done to my thyroid and the near-constant joint pain I now experience. Both of these are documented side effects. When I asked my doctor, he said the “only” side effect I would experience was hot flashes. Talk about a bait and switch!

The Solution I Wish the Author Had

As heartbreaking as Nicole’s memoir is, her experience is not abnormal for those suffering from endometriosis. Lack of qualified care causes many women to go untreated or mistreated.

Many women have found relief through excision surgery done by a qualified surgeon. On Facebook there is a group called “Nancy’s Nook.” Here, qualified doctors are listed. This way, patients can get the care they need from doctors with experience removing all of the endometriosis during surgery. Those who undergo excision from a qualified doctor often experience at least a decade of relief.

This Tuesday I see the “Nook” doctor for the first time. I have a lot of hope, although there are still a lot of questions. Can the damage done to my body by the Lupron be undone? Will the surgeon, though qualified, take me and my pain seriously? Like Nicole’s memoir, my story is still unfinished.

Review Breakdown

Writing – The writing was bad. Her writing read like it was written by a high school student, with sentence fragments and an excessive number of ellipses. I am also fairly judgmental toward anyone over the age of fifteen who uses the term “frenemy” to describe someone. She frequently referred to a coworker of hers as her “frenemy.”

Story – The story itself was interesting. It was a glimpse into the emotional and time-consuming process of getting a diagnosis of endometriosis and finding treatment. For those unaware of the pains of the process, this book gives helpful insight.

Mature Content – There is not much for mature content, beside graphic descriptions of medical problems and a fair amount of profanity.

Likability of Author – Nicole was immensely unlikable. Her husband seemed like a pretty terrible person, but some of her complaints about him made her sound petty. For example, she spent an extended amount of time writing about how one night she went to bed to watch TV. When he joined her, she said she could move to the living room, but he said he was okay with the TV. To her irritation, he pretty soon asked her to turn it down. This made her irrationally angry (as she readily admits). While this and her commentary on her relationships with other friends and family give insight into the emotionally taxing nature of this disease, her willingness to put these thoughts into writing was offputting. Again, her use of the term “frenemy” did not do anything to endear her to me.

Quick Review

This memoir is a helpful glimpse inside the experience of a woman suffering from endometriosis. Although it was poorly written and edited and provided an unflattering portrait of the author’s personality, I would still recommend it to those who want to understand what life is like for those suffering from endometriosis. Despite the extreme nature of her descriptions, I found her own experience with endometriosis to be very similar to my own.

The Glass Castle

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When I first saw previews for The Glass Castle, I knew it was a film I wanted to see. I mentioned the movie to my husband, who laughed as he read its synopsis. “So basically it’s a movie about your life?” he asked. When I saw that the movie was based on a memoir, I decided to pick up the book first. And while the details are eerily similar in many respects, Jeannette Walls has had a life much wilder than mine has ever been.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is the second of four children. Her father was a brilliant man who taught her and her siblings about math and science but also brought terror on them through his alcohol and gambling addictions. Their mother was an artist, but loved her art to the neglect of her parenting responsibilities. Together, her parents were a toxic combination that formed instability and turmoil for the children. They constantly moved around, living in poverty because of their parents’ choices.

In this memoir, Jeannette details moving from town to town and finally settling in her father’s hometown, where they bought a tiny house that was falling to pieces. Even in their poverty, their father believed that they would be able to build a castle out of glass one day. He carried the floor plans they had created for this castle, and the members of the family constantly added to these plans. In the backyard of their tiny, broken down house, the children dug a foundation for this castle under their father’s direction. However, life’s hardships required them to eventually fill it with trash. It is under these poor conditions that Jeannette and her older sister began to make plans to move to New York and start their lives apart from their parents.

A Heartbreaking Birthday Wish

One of the most powerful parts of this memoir was Jeannette’s recollection of her tenth birthday. Her dad took her outside to ask her what she wanted. He said he would get her anything, even if he had to die trying to get it.

Instantly she knew what she wanted, but she didn’t know if she should say it. As I listened to the audio recording of the book, I knew what she wanted, too.

Her dad pushed and begged her to tell him what it was that she wanted. Nothing was too big.

Finally, she told him: “Maybe you could stop drinking.”

I was driving to work as I listened to this part of Jeannette’s story, and I began to sob. Big, ugly tears. How many times have I wished that my own father might give up his addictions, for me? Oh, as an adult I know there’s so much more to addiction than selfishness. People use drugs and alcohol to numb unimaginable amounts of pain, but find themselves trapped by their addictive powers. But as a daughter, I want my dad to be my dad again. Sober.

Jeannette’s wish is heartbreaking not just because a ten-year-old girl wished for her dad to be sober for her birthday, but because that’s the wish of so many of us.

Skip the Movie and Read the Book

I ended up watching the movie, although my husband and I waited until after I read the book. There were a lot of things I liked about the movie, but I loved the richness of the book so much more.

The movie jumped around a lot more than the book did. While it probably made enough sense without having read the book, I felt like there were so many things in the movie that were underemphasized. Things that were important in the book seemed to be background images in the movie.

While my husband (who didn’t read the book) really liked the “present day” timeline in the movie, I did not. I felt like the time spent on it could have been used to make more sense of the things that happened in the book. Multiple stories from the book were combined into single scenes, making them lose their punch. For example, Jeannette’s birthday wish was turned into a plea for her dad to stop drinking when he returned home drunk one night.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t parts that touched me, though. One scene brought me to tears. Several others seemed to take on new life because I saw the film version. While I don’t think the movie is a complete waste of time, if you had to choose one or the other I highly recommend the book.

Review Breakdown

Writing – The writing was great. It carried the feel of the people and the story well.

Story – The story was intensely compelling from start to finish. While the last little bit seemed a little slower than the rest, it was still interesting and brought a feeling of resolution. It was a story that made me want to keep reading.

Mature Content – There was a lot of profanity (mostly used in quotes of Jeannette’s father). There was a fair amount of violence and gruesome depictions of the effects of alcoholism and poverty on a family. Jeannette also describes a few sexual abuse experiences, although not graphically.

Likability of Author – Jeannette was likable as I read this book. Occasionally her nearly-blind support of her father was frustrating. However, that support is understandable considering the bond between parent and child.

BONUS Audiobook Review – I always love when the audiobook is read by the author. It was great hearing Jeannette Walls read this book. It added extra life to the story hearing the inflection exactly as she intended it to be.

Other Books by Jeannette Walls – Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip (2000); Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel (2009); and The Silver Star (2013).

Quick Review

The Glass Castle is an emotional and rewarding read, especially for adult children of alcoholics. I personally found it to be especially cathartic as I worked my way through Jeannette’s story, finding myself having many of the same emotions and experiences that she has had. This book was well-written and had a story that kept me interested throughout. Of the books I’ve read so far this year, this one may be my favorite.

Sickened

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Julie Gregory shares her heartbreaking story in Sickened. This memoir details the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, who subjected her to unnecessary medical testing. Known as Munchausen’s by Proxy, those who subject their children unneeded medical treatment gain a sense of importance and needed sympathy because of their roles as caretakers.

Sickened by Julie Gregory
Sickened by Julie Gregory

Julie was raised by her schizophrenic father and her abusive mother. Her mother started taking Julie to doctors for medical tests she did not need at a very young age. When they arrived at the doctor’s office, her mother would tell her to act sick. In elementary school, Julie began to realize that not all of the symptoms that her mother described were ones she really felt. Even so, she went along with her mother’s instructions. The medical tests became increasingly invasive as she got older. At one point, Julie’s mother even asked a doctor to do open heart surgery on her. When he refused, she became enraged.

The abuse extended outside of the doctor’s office. Julie’s mother would provoke her father into fits of rage. Blinded by his rage, he would beat his children. In one such incident, he nearly beat Julie to death. When Julie was in high school, her family’s home caught on fire while she was spending the night at a friend’s house. It was not until years later that she found out her parents set it on fire to claim the insurance money. This realization, among others, helped Julie to understand the extent to which her childhood was abusive. She sought counseling for her trauma and worked intentionally on her recovery.

The Failure of Adults in Julie’s Life

Besides her parents, many other adults failed Julie during her years of abuse. Most obvious were the doctors and nurses who treated her. While Munchausen’s by Proxy was relatively unknown at the time, the doctors should have noticed Julie’s lack of symptoms or positive medical results.

When Julie was thirteen and about to undergo some medical tests, she told a nurse that she didn’t need the tests because she wasn’t really sick. She told the nurse that her mom was forcing her to pretend. In response to this revelation, the nurse sedated her and continued with the test.

In high school, Julie went to talk to a counselor about emancipation. She told him about all of the abuse. When she arrived home, she found out that he had told her parents everything she had confided in him. She was beaten severely and then received counseling from the school counselor weekly for the rest of the year for her “overactive imagination.”

All of these failures by the adults in her life were heartbreaking to read about. Each time she tried to reach out and get help, her situation got worse in some way. It is my hope that if a child ever reaches out to me in my position in the church, I can get them help without making things worse for them.

Review Breakdown

Writing – Overall the writing was above average. At times it got very abstract, but I felt that it was a good glimpse into the mind of a very traumatized person.

Story – The story was very morbidly interesting. It had a good pace and kept my interest throughout the entire book. This is a story I will continue to think about for the weeks to come.

Mature Content – There is nearly too much mature content to list. The author uses abundant profanity and a slew of racial and derogatory slurs. While these are things that are coming out of her parents’ mouths, they are still contained in the pages of the book. There are also vivid descriptions of terrible abuse. This is certainly not a read for young readers or for the faint of heart.

Likability of Author – Reading this book, I wanted the author to win. I wanted her to get away from her parents. Although a reader from a healthier background may be frustrated by some of the decisions she made, I found her to be overall likable. It was inspiring to me that she was able to move past her abusive situation.

Other Books by Julie Gregory – My Father’s Keeper (2009)

Quick Review

Sickened was a very intense and interesting read. Once I picked it up, I did not want to put it down, despite its very mature content. I thought that its adult content offered a glimpse into the life of a severely abusive home. Although I have read books about other abusive situations, Julie Gregory’s book offers the unique perspective of a victim of Munchausen’s by Proxy. My main complaint is that the book finished on a cliffhanger that does not appear to be answered in her second book, My Father’s Keeper (according to reviews). I will likely be picking up her other book to read more of her story.

Cravings

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Last summer I read It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell and was incredibly inspired by her journey of losing over a hundred pounds. She found joy in cooking her own meals and living in moderation as a key to her success. When I read the summary of Cravings on Amazon, I thought I would find a similarly inspiring read. While still an interesting book, this book was not what I wanted it to be.

Cravings by Judy Collins
Cravings by Judy Collins

Judy Collins struggled with food her entire life. Between her binge eating and crash diets, she estimates that she has gained and lost over a thousand pounds over the course of her life. After her music career began to take off, she began purging her meals in an attempt to balance her binge eating with her desire to keep the pounds off. In the midst of her eating disorder, she suffered from severe alcoholism. In the end, she found that extreme measured eating and elimination of grains, starches, and sugar could help her control her eating.

“I want to suggest to you that if you are at all inconvenienced by your relationship to food, you should find a plan that might help you live with joy around your meals and in your life.”

Judy Collins

Between chapters sharing her personal journey, Judy wrote about the lives of the “diet gurus.” These gurus were those who invented or tried different diets, many of which she tried. The gurus she wrote about ranged from those living hundreds of years ago to the creators of Weight Watchers. All of the stories she wrote about had her own experience with the diet sprinkled into the story.

Not the Diet Memoir I Anticipated

The Amazon description of this book says that Judy Collins had an overeating problem that “nearly claimed her career and her life.” It says that she started a strict diet that “allowed her to maintain a healthy weight for years,” among other things.

Without knowing who Judy Collins is, I assumed that she had been overweight at some point in her life. The Amazon description of the book makes no mention of her bulimia, which is a theme throughout the book. Although it mentions “compulsive eating” and a “fraught relationship with food,” it is easier for a reader unfamiliar with her to assume she had an amazing weight loss story.

Near the beginning of the book, she made the claim that through her compulsive eating and crash dieting, she gained and lost over a thousand pounds. At first, I still had in mind that she must have lost some large amount of weight at some point.

Upon closer inspection, I started to view that number with skepticism when I (1) found out her peak weight was 140 pounds and (2) when I started to think about how during the course of a day a person’s weight can fluctuate as much as a pound or two. Depending on how obsessively I was to weigh myself, I could make that same claim in two years, and that’s just taking into consideration food and water.

Judy Collins Still Had Eating Problems

While I’m probably being a bit too critical of this number, I am still skeptical of a person writing about weight loss who never weighed more than 140 pounds. According to a BMI calculator, she would have to be shorter than 5’3″ to actually be overweight at 140 pounds. While I am unable to find her height online, Judy Collins appears to be an average height and was unlikely in the “overweight” category.

But all of this does not negate the fact that she had real eating problems. Her cravings, binge eating, bulimia, and alcoholism are all serious problems. The problem I have with this book is its dishonesty in promoting her weight loss. Even the first half of the book makes great claims about weight loss (giving the “gained and lost 1000 pounds” number). It’s just frustrating to find out halfway through the book that her peak weight was only 140 pounds.

A Seemingly Unreasonable Solution

After spending most of the book writing about her disordered eating, Collins spent an unsatisfactory amount of time writing about the solutions to her problems. In addition, the solution she found seems inaccessible for the average person.

For Judy Collins, the answer to her binge eating and alcoholism is “Greysheeters Anonymous.” It is the most restrictive meal plan that “Overeaters Anonymous” uses. This plan does not allow gluten, starches, and sugars. All food is supposed to be strictly measured by weight.

In one chapter about the solution, Collins wrote that she owns several food scales. She travels with them so that she is always able to weigh her food. When she eats out, she weighs her food to make sure she is staying within the limits of her diet. While she claims that this diet brings her freedom, I cannot imagine taking a scale into a restaurant and weighing my food before I eat and thinking, “Wow, I’m so free now!”

I’m glad it works for her, but this book did not offer much hope for someone looking for a diet that might work with a busy lifestyle. Perhaps I have been unfair in comparing Cravings to Andie Mitchell’s It Was Me All Along, but had this book been more like Mitchell’s book I may not have been so disappointed.

Review Breakdown

Writing – This memoir was not terribly written. However, it was not very impressive either. I personally thought that the chapters about the diet gurus were written better. My husband suggested that perhaps her editor felt freer to edit chapters that weren’t about her life. However, different styles of chapters can also seem to have different “levels” of quality, too. It’s possible the difference I felt was all in my head.

Story – I found the short stories about the diet gurus very engaging. Although the author’s own story was interesting, I thought there were points where she was very repetitive. Reviewers who have read multiple books by Collins point out that there is overlap between this and her other books.

Mature Content – The author writes about her son’s suicide, her alcoholism, and her lifelong eating disorder. This book may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Likability of Author – Personally, I did not find Judy Collins likable in this book. I am unfamiliar with her music or any of her other work. Had this book’s advertising not been so deceptive I would have likely enjoyed it and her more.

Other Books by Judy Collins – Trust Your Heart (1987), Amazing Grace (1991), Shameless (1995), Singing Lessons (1998), Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength (2003), The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy (2007) and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music (2011)

Quick Review

Cravings was not the diet book that I was expecting at all. I was skeptical of her claims after finding out that her peak weight was only 140 pounds. Judy Collins did have an unhealthy relationship with food between her bulimia, crash dieting, and alcoholism. However, the book’s claims that her diet helped bring her to a healthy weight seems like a stretch. Had this memoir been more upfront about Collins’ specific dieting issues, it may have reached its intended audience better. The story was interesting, though repetitive with average writing. With all of these things considered, I would only recommend this book to those who are fans of Judy Collins or who are interested in reading more about eating disorders.

For the Right Reasons

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When I picked up For the Right Reasons, I was more excited to read it than I am most books. I’ve been watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for the past two seasons, and have become familiar with Sean Lowe’s live Tweets during the show. My husband said that if his book was anything like his Tweets, I’d love it. And I did!

For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe
For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe

Sean Lowe grew up in a Christian home. His parents nurtured his interest in football from a young age, and he earned a scholarship to college to play football. Unfortunately, in college he did as little as possible to get by both academically and athletically. He was eventually dropped from the business program because of his grades. After that, he sabotaged his potential for a football career by not investing in practice as much as he should. At the beginning of his career, he and two friends began a debt consolidation company. New regulations changed how they could conduct their business, though, and they lost all of their investors’ money. Sean did what he never thought he would: he became an insurance salesman like his father.

Sean’s sister and brother-in-law nominated him for The Bachelorette. After the long application process, Sean was surprised to be selected, but excited to see what could happen. He was more interested in winning than in falling in love, but found himself taken with Emily. When he was sent home, he was completely shocked. However, he was invited back to be on The Bachelor. He took the opportunity to express more of his sense of humor, which he didn’t feel he showed when he was with Emily. Sean remained indecisive until the very end of his season, but realized that it was Catherine he couldn’t live without.

Sean’s Convictions in an Unconventional Scenario

Sean kept to his Christian faith throughout The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. During The Bachelorette, he did devotions each morning. Eventually, he had several of the other guys join him for devotions. Although they were all competing for the same woman, they were able to have this devotional time together.

During The Bachelor, Sean was looking for a woman who shared the same faith that he had. Although he did not want to have sex until he was married, he decided to have the overnight dates with the women to have the opportunity for off camera time. He wanted to ask them serious questions so that he could make the decision with all of the information he needed.

After The Bachelor ended, all the media wanted to talk about with Sean and Catherine was the fact they were waiting until they were married to have sex. Interviews were consumed with the topic, ranging from curiosity to disbelief. Sean writes that although sexual purity is important, it is not the central belief of Christianity. It was unfortunate that the media made his beliefs all about his sexual purity and not about the whole of what they are.

Sean’s Sense of Humor

Reading this book was a lot like reading Sean’s Tweets. The main difference was that I got to see the more serious side of him as well. Most exciting was that I got to see the side of him that shares the same Christian faith and convictions that I do. To me, that made the humor even funnier.

Sean’s sense of humor was prevalent throughout the book. His journey had some serious hurdles: self-inflicted troubles in college, losing half a million dollars of investors’ money, and having his heart broken in front of millions of people. Yet even in the midst of telling these stories, his sense of humor makes it an enjoyable read.

Quick Review

For the Right Reasons was a great book. Sean Lowe’s convictions and faith shine throughout the pages. His troubles in college, business failure, and heartbreak make him easy to relate to. Sean’s story of finding love with Catherine is charming and surprising. And even amidst the charm, he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. His honesty about the realities of post-reality show life and making a real relationship work are refreshing. The sense of humor he has throughout his story make the entire book an exceptionally enjoyable read. Overall, this has been one of my favorite reads in a while.

This Life I Live

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This Life I Live is the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Rory Feek and his wife, Joey. The husband and wife duo became popular in the country music industry, performing as Joey+Rory until Joey’s death from cervical cancer.

This Life I Live by Rory Feek
This Life I Live by Rory Feek

Rory was raised by his mother, with occasional visits from an absent father. While he never really thought of himself as poor, his family moved from state to state to avoid landlords collecting missed rent. Even from a young age, Rory loved music and wanted to create it. As a young adult, he had two daughters. Shortly after the second was born, their mother left him alone to be a single father.

For years he raised his daughters while building his name in the country music world. When his daughters were teenagers, he met Joey. After she broke off her relationship with another man, they began dating and married quickly. They eventually began performing as a duo. Then around ten years into their marriage, they had their daughter Indiana. Shortly after, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. With treatment, she had a short remission. But after that remission, the cancer returned and Joey passed away in February 2016.

Rory’s Inspiring Takeaways from a Tough Childhood

Rory’s childhood was not ideal. While his mother did her best, his father was absent most of the time. Even when he was around, he was a fairly incapable father.

One time, Rory’s father got him a guitar. Because of Rory’s budding interest in music and the poverty his family lived in, it was the most amazing gift he’d ever received. Even though it was a cheap guitar, he played it constantly and learned as much as he could. He was crushed, though, when his father asked for it back.

“I am him. I am him, learning to be more.”

Rory Feek

As Rory became a father himself, he took the lessons from his childhood and did his best to become a better man than his father was. Although there were times in which he failed his children in similar ways, he also found opportunities to become a better parent because he knew how he could do better.

Rory’s Inspiring Testimony of God’s Work in his Life

As a young parent, Rory knew about God. But he didn’t really know God. He went to church sometimes, but didn’t really have a relationship with God.

One day, he got on a bus and left town without telling his girls. He had gotten to the end of his rope and was overwhelmed with life. But along that ride, he had an encounter (that he explains far better than I can) in which he realized his need to get serious about his relationship with God. When the bus stopped, he bought a return ticket and headed home before his daughters realized he was gone.

“After a while I didn’t have to remind myself to make the good and right choices. I just started making them naturally. Because it felt so good.”

Rory Feek

His relationship with God became a grounding point for his ability to love his children and his wife. It was a love that gave him the strength to face the hard road of Joey’s cancer diagnosis. Even though at the point of his dedicating his life to God he had not yet met Joey, that time and that relationship would give him what he needed to love Joey the way he did.

Rory’s Inspiring Love for his Wife

Rory inspired the world with his love for his wife as she was diagnosed with cancer and faced her final days. Her strength and positivity throughout her fight also encouraged and inspired fans.

Some friends and family members asked Rory if he was struggling with not being with Joey physically during the time she was fighting cancer (which, by the way, seems like a terrible question to ask a man whose is dying). There was speculation about his ability to stay faithful because of his unfaithfulness to the women who came before Joey.

But even in her last days and at her weakest, Rory didn’t feel the need to stray because she was still his wife and he still loved her. He loved her for more than her physical body. Rory loved Joey for all that she was.

Quick Review

This Life I Live is an inspiring and overall easy read. It was emotional and down-to-earth. Although it wasn’t stylistically spectacular, it wasn’t bad. It read like a country song and seemed very authentic to Rory’s voice. He wrote powerfully about growing up in bad conditions, becoming a better man, and loving his wife through her cancer diagnosis and death. Despite the fact I have not listened to Joey+Rory’s music before, this was still an amazing read. Fans will likely find it even more enjoyable.

Rise

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Rise published under the deceptive premise that a woman fleeing an abusive relationship built a house with only the help of her four children and YouTube videos. While Cara Brookins put more work into building her house than most people do, this fascinating book is a better read about escaping an abusive relationship than it is about building your own house.

Rise by Cara Brookins
Rise by Cara Brookins

Cara Brookins found herself in two abusive marriages after her first marriage to her high school sweetheart failed. Even after ending her third marriage, her second husband Adam continued to stalk her and her children, leaving them terrified. Although diagnosed with schizophrenia, Adam refused to take his medication. His delusions caused him to terrorize Cara and her children. Eventually she got a gun for her own safety since he threatened to kill her.

After living through the terror of both of her abusive marriages, Cara wanted a better life for her children. While she could afford a small house on her income, it would not be as spacious as she would like for her and her four children. To have a house big enough for all five of them, Cara decided to get a loan and build the house herself, with the help of her children. With all four children on board, they secure a loan and begin construction.

A Deceptive Premise

In the description of the book on Amazon (and every news article I’ve seen), Rise describes Cara’s journey as follows:

“Equipped only with YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan and a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children.”

However, I find that to be terribly deceptive. Here is a list of some of the things that Cara and her children did not do themselves:

  • Pour the foundation
  • Build the roof
  • Build and install the kitchen cabinets
  • Install the kitchen fixtures
  • All of the electrical work

Whenever Cara ran into a problem in the construction of the house, she hired a young man who worked at the local hardware store to help. Additionally, she hired contractors for all of the electrical and the majority of the kitchen work. For a portion of the project, she had her father helping. Although he was aging and struggling with illness, his experience in building was valuable to her.

I still believe that Cara and her children did an amazing thing. They just did not do what the media and marketing for her book say they did. They still did most of the work, which is more than I’ll ever do. But they did not build the house on their own with only the help of YouTube videos. They had a lot of help along the way.

Adam’s Illness

I think this was a better book about loving and suffering at the hand of someone with mental illness. Although the premise of building your own house is interesting, I found Rise to be somewhat lacking in that area. Cara’s story of abuse, however, gave an interesting perspective on loving someone with a mental illness.

When Cara first married Adam, he was a brilliant man with no sign of mental illness. However, as he began to descend into madness, he also began to be physically and psychologically abusive.

Although Adam could not help himself in many ways, his actions were still illegal. He was still terrorizing and harming his family. Despite the fact he had at one point been a brilliant man, he could not be excused for the terror he was causing for Cara and her children.

In Rise, Cara raised valid questions about how to love and manage a person with a mental illness like Adam’s, especially when personal safety is concerned. She shares her personal struggle of whether his being abusive because of mental illness was reason enough to leave, or whether she should stay and help him.

Her story is both terrifying and important. To those who know someone suffering from severe mental illness, especially with delusions, I recommend Rise. It will ring heartbreaking and familiar.

Quick Review

Although I feel that Rise was published under a deceptive premise, it’s still an interesting read. I feel like Cara did not live up to the claims of building her own house with only YouTube tutorials and her own children to help, but she still did amazing things. Other things within the book left me skeptical to Cara’s honesty, such as the advanced language she assigned to her toddler and the vivid recollections of meditations. However, I found it to be well-written and engaging. Her story and experience is unique and worth experiencing yourself. Whether or not you agree with how she handled the situations in her life, it’s a good read.

Discussion Topic: What Would You Title Your Memoir?

My husband and I have a running joke that whenever I say something that I say fairly frequently, he’ll respond with, “That should be the title of your memoir.”

Recent Carrie Faith Taylor memoir titles include:

  • I Can’t Find my Keys
  • I’m Developing a Migraine
  • and Sploofin’ Moofin (an affectionate term for big muffins)

If I had to come up with a serious title for my memoir, I honestly have no idea what I would do. Perhaps I’d just end up calling it, I Promise this is all True.

What would your memoir be titled? Why?

American Heiress

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American Heiress is an interesting read about a turbulent time in history and the place of Patricia Hearst’s kidnapping case within that time. Jeffrey Toobin’s book will leave you questioning whether Patricia is guilty or innocent in the crimes she committed after being taken.

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

Patricia Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small group of radicals in the San Francisco area. She soon found herself involved in bank robberies and other crimes with the SLA. After most of the members died in a shootout with police, Patricia and the remaining two members remained in hiding for over a year before being arrested.

Upon her arrest, Patricia appeared to have been radicalized. Several people who witnessed her life on the run testified to her zeal for the SLA’s cause. However, after her father provided her with a lawyer, she completely changed. She cut ties with SLA members and became a model inmate. When at trial, she received an “average” sentence for her role in one bank robbery in exchange for testifying against the remaining SLA members about the bank robbery that resulted in the death of a woman. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and later pardoned by President Bill Clinton. Patricia never committed another crime.

Patricia Hearst: Guilty or Not?

For about three quarters of the book, Patricia appears to be guilty of the crimes she committed alongside the SLA. Her apparent radical behavior in front of strangers and her defiance to the police upon her arrest point to someone who has been truly changed by those who kidnapped her. Further, she kept a monkey necklace that was given to her by Willie Wolfe, one of the SLA members. During her trial she would claim that their relationship was non-consensual, but her keeping of the necklace raised doubts in the minds of many. Many of her actions, though done in captivity, make her look guilty.

And yet she was kidnapped. Although the SLA did little physical harm to her, these were radicals who were interested in and willing to harm other people. There is little doubt that they could have harmed her. Furthermore, her complete turnaround so shortly after capture points to her possibly being coerced by her captors. Despite the fact there are inconsistencies in her story, the fact she has never committed any further crimes speaks volumes.

So do I think Patricia Hearst is guilty? After finishing this biography I spent hours thinking about it. Although it seems like an easy answer, I believe that the only person who knows the extent of her guilt is Patricia Hearst herself.

Quick Review

This book was well-written in a journalistic style. While I prefer the personal style of memoirs over biographies, I found this biography enjoyable. Unfortunately it had a slow start as it tried to introduce all of the characters and their histories, along with the political atmosphere of the time. However, once I was into the book I found it hard to put down. The doubt surrounding Patricia’s guilt or innocence is extraordinarily intriguing. I cannot help but continue to think about whether or not she willingly committed her crimes, even after I’ve finished the book.

Favorite Wife

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Favorite Wife is the sad and insightful story of religious abuse and polygamy in a fundamentalist Mormon sect. Although she grew up in The Church of the Firstborn, Susan began to see some of the problems that polygamy presented when she married one of the leaders of the church.

Favorite Wife by Susan Schmidt
Favorite Wife by Susan Schmidt

When she was fourteen years old, Susan had a dream that she was supposed to marry Verlan. Confused by this dream, she confided in Verlan’s grandmother. Not long after having this dream, Verlan’s brother Ervil told Susan that he believed he was meant to marry her instead. However, in their church they believe only the women receive revelation about who they are meant to marry. Because of his position as one of the leaders in the church, Susan felt vulnerable to Ervil’s “revelation.” It was not until he pushed her to get sealed to him (spiritually married) without telling her parents that she knew something was wrong with his “revelation.” Only days later, after her fifteenth birthday, she married Verlan instead. She became his fifth wife.

Susan soon learned that life as Verlan’s fifth wife was not as rosy as she thought it would be. She found herself lonely and living in poverty. Between his travel and his time with other wives, he was rarely with her. With the cost of keeping up five wives and over twenty children, all of his family lived in poverty. After Verlan’s brother Joel, the prophet of their church, was assassinated, Susan began to search for answers. According to their church, Joel was not supposed to die until the end of time. If this was false, maybe polygamy was as well. In searching the Bible, Susan found that it said unfavorable things about polygamy. She knew she had to leave Verlan. Eventually, she found a way to escape to the United States with her children.

How Control was Exerted over Susan

Throughout the reading of this book, I noticed several ways in which control was exerted over Susan in order to get her to stay in The Church of the Firstborn and in her marriage.

New Information Stifled

Whenever Susan would find a new piece of information, it would be disregarded if it was contrary to what Verlan believed. This was especially true if that belief was polygamy. When Susan confronted her husband with the teaching in the Book of Mormon that calls polygamy a “whoredom,” he called it an old revelation. He told her that the newer revelations of their church’s doctrine overrides what the Book of Mormon teaches.

Susan also found Verlan believed things contrary to what modern science and medicine believed. She found it difficult to convince him to take her or her children to the doctor because of the cost and his lack of belief in modern medicine. He also had outdated (read: false) beliefs about pregnancy that frustrated her. Although she tried to show him new information, he was not convinced.

Her Questions Dismissed

When Susan began to have questions about what she was reading in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Verlan dismissed them. Several times when she had questions about the inconsistencies between the Bible and the teachings of their church, he dismissed her questions. He would say, “You just don’t understand.”

These words were meant to dismiss and silence her. Yet they only worked to further frustrate her and convince her of the need to get answers.

Her Opinions Belittled

Susan was often accused of being argumentative for having an opinion on things that impacted her life. Verlan would get frustrated by any emotion she showed in discussion and ask her why she was being so difficult. When he spent a large portion of “her night” with another woman, he belittled her feelings about the situation. When he began moving his wives to the jungle, he did not consider that she would not want to go. Verlan frequently used accusatory language about her being difficult as a way to end the conversation and force her to concede.

When he wasn’t accusing her of being difficult, he was laughing at her anger and calling her “cute.” He would tell her that her anger was cute in an attempt the diffuse the situation. Verlan managed to get around resolving the actual issues by doing so. Whether he called her “difficult” or “cute,” he treated her feelings as secondary to his.

Quick Review

Favorite Wife was interesting and heartbreaking. Susan’s strength through an abusive situation is inspiring. I’ll admit that I’ve had a fascination with books about those who survive through living in cult-like situations, and this one has been one of the most interesting. One of the things I liked the most about this book over other memoirs was Susan’s ability to write about her actions and feelings in the moment. While there was not sexual abuse like I’ve read about in other books about polygamous cults, there was still abuse of power. Ervil is the kind of evil that will make your skin crawl. And although at one point Verlan is painted the hero, his more subtle abuses of power will begin to wear on you as well. Most inspiring is Susan’s survival and motivation to give her children a better life than that which the cult provides.