Second Chances: Finding Healing For Your Pain, Regaining Your Strength, Celebrating Your New Life, by Pat Smith
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Pat Smith, the author of this book, happens to be the wife of Emmitt Smith, NFL Hall of Fame Running Back for the Dallas Cowboys, and she also happens to be one of the leading group of members within the church of T.D. and Sarita Jakes , which puts this book squarely within a set of books relating to widespread concerns about family well-being and dignity regarding the black church and sports culture. Indeed, this is a book directed clearly at women, and especially black women, who share the author’s background and who would understand easily what is meant when the author breaks into one of her rants against the “Great Gazoo” (124), which is apparently an expression for Satan I had not been familiar with before, having only heard of it as a zany character on the last season of The Flintstones television show, or “the Enemy,” as he is more often known. The author uses this book mainly as an opportunity to speak about the narrative arc of her own life and her own struggle against fear and insecurity and past mistakes, as an opportunity to promote her Treasure You ministry which seems to pamper women, and the chance to tell inspirational stories about women overcoming incredible difficulties.
The contents of this book are divided into fourteen chapters that describe the author’s life interspersed with other accounts in a large chronological fashion. The author talks about her experiences as the first runner up at the Miss USA contest, after she had been the first black Miss Virginia, her early unsuccessful marriage to Martin Lawrence and her experience of co-parenting their daughter, her recovery and experience of forgiveness from God, her courtship with Emmitt Smith and the results of an act of unfaithfulness that led him to have a daughter with another woman while they were dating, her efforts to overcome the loss of her mother to breast cancer and to fulfill her dream of being a television presenter, and her encouragement of Emmitt Smith in his efforts on Dancing With The Stars and to secure his legacy after the end of his football career. Along with her own stories she tells a wide variety of stories of women she has worked with and gotten to know, who dealt with horrors such as being sold into slavery by family members, abandoned by parents with drug habits, subjected to rape and domestic abuse, and so on. No opportunity to tug at the heartstrings of the reader or to draw empathy and concern  is left out of a book that is modestly sized at about 190 pages.
How is one to best view a book like this? It is clearly aimed at a female audience, and for upwardly mobile black women who enjoy reading and have a sense of fellowship with like women, this book is likely to be greatly enjoyed. On a wider level, this book is written at a level to appeal to a contemporary Christian female audience in general—it praises the importance of marriage counseling even when things are going well, praises communication, urges women to be less aggressive in their prayers , and deals openly and compassionately with struggles in co-parenting even after a marriage has broken up. This is not a book that points to an ideal as much as it provides encouragement for those who have been through immense difficulty and live broken lives and come from broken families. It is a large target audience, although the book is long on talking about the messages of her ministers that she views as being directed at her, and is rather short on biblical exegesis and a pointing to a godly biblical ideal. God reaches down into the dust and the mire out of love for His children, but He doesn’t expect us to stay in the mire, but rather to be cleansed so that we can sit with princes (see, for example 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Psalm 113, the Magnificat of Mary ). This book makes for a warm and encouraging girl power read to encourage other women, but with a bit more biblical understanding it could have been much more. Nevertheless, it has modest aims and meets them, and that is likely to be enough for many female readers to celebrate warmly, and a book that will likely not irritate those few male readers who are likely to work their way through it either.
 See, for example:
 See, for example, this discussion of the struggle of the author’s bff Tara:
“Even with her many career accomplishments, including a thriving, successful career in law, Tara was frustrated with the fact that God gave a life to her that she didn’t want.
Her frustration grew as she remained single, even as I entered into my second marriage and had three more children. For our friendship to stay true, we had to be open and honest with feelings. We had several defining moments where we expressed our emotions—everything from support to jealousy. She was jealous of my family life; I was jealous of her freedom, ability to travel, and successful career (81).” Believe me, I can relate.
 In this the book strongly mirrors the advice of films like War Room:
 See, for example: