Book Review: Gathering Courage

Gathering Courage:  A Life-Changing Journey Through Adoption, Adversity, And A Reading Disability, by T.A. McMullin

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge through BookCrash.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

This book certainly lives up to its name, and it is to the author’s credit that this book shows little evidence of a reading disorder, being clear and straightforward and unadorned prose that tells a story in a mostly linear fashion.  This is without a doubt a poignant addition to the memoirs of difficult childhoods genre relating to adoption that I read about quite often [1], but in reading this I was struck by the fact that something was missing.  It took me about half the book to realize it, but I came to a part where the author said that she didn’t hang around guys and party but she focused on work and church, and while that is not a bad thing, it did suggest that the author’s struggle with intimacy is something that has never entirely healed.  To be sure, not everyone who struggles with a difficult childhood and abusive parents as the author did, much less with adversity relating to health as well as dyslexia, is able to find success in love and marriage, but it doesn’t seem as if the author even tried, and that leaves this book with a bit of a sense of sadness.

In reading this book, there are at least a few patterns that show themselves over and over again.  For one, the author struggled to find consistent work as well as to gain a good education because of dyslexia and a total lack of health from her adoptive parents, where her father appeared particularly abusive (verbally at least).  Her health struggles were a consistent problem as well and she appeared to attract a fair amount of difficulty, including a car accident that required extensive physical therapy.  Fortunately, the author appears to have bonded early with animals, and the book is filled with the author’s discussion of her loving relationship with dogs and horses and so on.  Indeed, a great part of the book is seeing the author’s resilience in dealing with various problems and her rather sensible (and admirable) tendency to great books when she was teaching something where there was no suitable book already.  She also appears to have had at least a few very good friends who helped her life along, making this book a generally happy one for all of the adversity.

Whether or not you appreciate this book will depend on what you expect from it.  This book makes little in the way of literary pretensions, but it tells an honest and heartfelt story of the author’s own life and how God was able to help her through positive connections with others who encouraged her as well as through the love of animals.  If the author’s life seems rather lonely, at least from the perspective of this reader, at least it is a life that has been dedicated to service as well as to growth and overcoming, and that is something that is well worth celebrating.  And a great deal of this book is much more enjoyable for the reader if there are not the expectations that fill most memoirs of this kind with an end in marriage or a home full of beloved children.  So long as the reader expects a life of dignified efforts at serving others and engaging in meaningful work, the reader will find a great deal to enjoy here, even if this book differs from many memoirs in not having precisely the sort of happy ending that many readers will naturally expect.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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