Fearless: How A Diagnosis Of A Chronic Disease Turned My Life Upside Down, by Jo Ann Maxwell
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/West Bow Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
While there are some books whose purpose and meaning one has to puzzle and ponder over, this book makes its meaning and purpose very clear from the beginning and follows that trail consistently through to the end. At its core, this book has two fundamental purposes. One of those purposes is to present the memoir of a life lived under the shadow of MS and it goes into considerable detail about the disease and the havoc it wrecks on people. The other purpose is to provide a sort of theodicy of why bad things happen to seemingly good people , demonstrating that as her physical health has declined and as she has struggled in her life with her relationships and family, her faith in God has been deepened as a result of her impatient endurance of her disease, which she deals with in characteristically modest form, full of biblical citations. This is a book, therefore, with a double narrative arc, one a downbeat arc regarding health and the physical existence, and the other an upbeat arc with regards with faith and the author’s relationship with God.
As far as its content and structure is concerned, this is a book that is well organized and is overall reasonably short, towards the shorter end of the size of memoirs. As the book contains so much specific personal information about the author’s childhood athletic efforts and adult teaching of Special Olympians, the news about the disease was one that was sudden and unwelcome, but where there was plenty of warning ahead of time that was ignored. The author also gains a great deal of sympathy when she writes about the suicide of her alcoholic first husband, whose alcoholism unfortunately passed on to at least one child, and talks about her unwise second marriage that ended in divorce. It is unclear what sort of issues that the author had in her own background, but her choice in men for husbands has, like many people, been poor. The heart of the book, though, does not discuss these unpleasant matters but rather the way that God has manifested Himself in her life despite all of her difficulties and how her faith has been strengthened as a result of her trials and difficulties, even as she refuses to give in to a belief that MS is incurable. That feisty spirit is one that many readers will appreciate as well.
As is often the case with a book like this, one wonders what sort of audience would appreciate it mostly. Obviously, the author writes to a Christian audience that believes in the reality of God’s goodness to believers even in the face of trials and difficulties, and which endures the turmoil of life with the belief that the trials and sufferings of this world are not worthy of being compared to the blessings of the world to come. Obviously, those suffering from MS or other chronic diseases will find a great deal of encouragement here, and this book also manages to fit squarely within the memoirs of difficult lives that is a fairly popular subgenre as well. All in all, this is a work that will likely be appreciated by those who have faced the difficulties of life with a sense of bravery and are willing to cheer on the efforts of someone whose life and experiences have been similar to their own. This is a self-published book, to be sure, but it is difficult to see why this book would not benefit from a bit of a push through various not-for-profit organizations which help those who are dealing with MS and related diseases. This short memoir has a lot to offer to a large audience of readers who suffer as the author has.
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