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Book Review: Life's That Way

If I'd never heard of Jim Beaver, never 'known' Bobby Singer, never watched him in any TV Show, I would admire this man simply for the story he's shared in this book.

Anyone looking to read this book probably knows the basics of the story it contains, but I will quote specifics in this review, so read with that in mind.

The book jacket calls this a memoir. In August 2003, Jim and his wife Cecily received what they thought was the worst news possible--their daughter, Maddie, was autistic. Then, six weeks later, the roof fell in--Cecily was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

It is so much more than a memoir; to me, a memoir is a story that looks back on an experience in a person's life. It encompasses the lessons learned and the balance achieved after one has survived. Jim's story is told very much in the now. He wrote nightly emails to family and friends--who passed them on to other friends--almost every night for a year.

As you read this story, you are swept up in the events as they happened to Jim and his family. It is extraordinary. I've never read a book quite like it. I tend to stay away from non-fiction, preferring the escapism of fiction as I feel my life contains enough real-world drama. And I will admit that the reason I picked this book up was because of Bobby.

But I have since recommended the book to my book club--all but one of whom have no idea who Bobby Singer is--and to anyone else I can. I will be posting this review on my Facebook account as well. Because I believe that anyone can read this book and walk away with a different perspective on their life. Regardless of if you've experienced the loss of a loved one, or had a challenging diagnosis of your child--Jim's story transcends those details.

It's a love story, really. Love of self, love of selflessness, love of humanity, love of a mate, love of a parent, love of a child. It's honest and raw and it hurts to read and I couldn't put it down. When I saw the title, I interpreted it to mean that's just how things are. But when you read the book, you realize it's a compass. Move forward, keeping going, life is that way.

I am married to an amazing man. He's my friend, my lover, my greatest source of strength and my greatest source of frustration. This June we will have been married 8 years. We've been through serious health scares, surgeries, debt, loss of loved ones, the birth of a child, change of careers, and the seven-year-itch.

As I read this book, though, I found myself wondering if my husband and I knew each other as well as Cecily and Jim. At one point in the story, Jim's entire entry is a laundry list of things that Cecily loved. There are 73 items in the list. And it's basic, and it's beautiful, and it made me think about my guy. And wonder if I could list 73 things that he likes. And if I'd be right.

"I don't know how to express what this girl means to me." 

It's those such unexpected, quick phrases that sucked the air from the room and had my heartbeat echoing in my ears as I applied his passion to my own life and came up short.

"How incredibly far our lives drift from where we knew with all certainty they would go. How little today resembles what yesterday thought it would look like."

JIm's simple, eloquent wording struck a chord in me that is still playing loud and strong days after I've finished this story of a piece of his life. Sometimes, in a moment of instinctive protection, I don't allow myself to truly feel all that a moment in time allows for. I curl in and let the emotions bounce off of me so that I can keep moving forward. But I realize that by doing this, I've missed out on the good parts of such a moment as well as the bad.

And therefore, it's harder to remember the moment in it's entirety. And there are some moments, however painful, however ugly, however dreaded, that need to be remembered and savored and learned from and appreciated. Because that's how we grow. That's how we learn.

"As my comrade Tom says, we soldier on, right foot after left, cursing the mud that sucks at our feet to drag us down, and praying that our steps lead us out of and not deeper into the valley of the shadow."

Each night we are privy to Jim's thoughts, emotions, anger, sadness, glory, humility, and joy. He writes with unabashed honesty as he travels the path of his wife's disease, going from frightened spouse to single parent and letting us know that above all, there is goodness in the world. Despite the darkness that settled on their little family, there was light all around them and it sustained him and he was able to continue on because of it.

I guarantee you that if choose to read this story, if you choose to travel this journey, you will emerge on the other side with your world brighter. You may cry, you may rub at your aching heart, you may even want to put it down half-way through because you just can't take any more... but when you finish this year with Jim, you will know that humanity is one of the greatest things on this earth because of it's capacity to give and it's need to take and it's fortitude to fight through the darkest times of life.

I'm off to make a list of things my guy loves... see how many I can get...



( 20 Tall Tales — Tell Me A Story )
May. 5th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
wow! what a brilliant review on the book!
May. 5th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :) If you read the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

May. 5th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
I've only just started the book, but I already agree with your assessment. Jim Beaver is simply a modern renaissance man. There are too few extraordinary individuals like him in the world and I am thankful that he is generous to share so much of himself with all of us.

I confess when he first appeared in Devil's Trap, both my hubby and I pointed at the screen and simulaneously yelled "Ellesworth!" - as Jim was already my favourite character on Deadwood. I have to admit that I am now torn between wanting to see more of him as an actor and wanting to see more of him as a writer.

Wonderful review ~ and thank you for sharing of both yourself and your talent.
May. 6th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
Y'know, I can't believe that I've never seen Deadwood. It sounds like it would be right up my alley. Was it on HBO? I only recently got HBO (when we got DISH) so if it was, that may have been the reason.

*mental note: Netflix Deadwood*

I have to admit that I am now torn between wanting to see more of him as an actor and wanting to see more of him as a writer.

I know what you mean. But... that said... I still don't want Bobby to die...

May. 6th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
We only saw Deadwood on dvd -- which was awesome cuz we watched it back to back to back to back etc... I can't recommend it highly enough - it was like Shakespeare with major cursing and cowboys -- just doesn't get any better than that.... Of course, you have to realize that f*** is my favourite word -- I've even done an academic conference paper on it... so do bear that in mind...
Part of me is very, very hopeful that Bobby doesn't die -- because of one scene in the previews -- where Dean says he hopes Sam is with Ruby because he's going to kill her. That to me sounds like Dean is about to head out to track Sam down after Sam has "escaped" the intervention. Jim has said he only has the one scene at the beginning of the finale -- so I'm hoping that's it --- fingers, toes, eyes, and ears crossed -- cuz at the end of the day, I really, really don't want to lose Bobby either....
May. 5th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Well thank you for a couple reasons:
- telling me about an amazing book to read
- informing me that Jim Beaver even had a book
- making me wonder how long my list would be for my boyfriend of 6 years' favorite things

Not sure if I'll read it - sounds like I have to be in the right frame of mind so that it wouldn't leave me a crying mess - I'll have to time it pre-pre-PMS.
May. 6th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)

You're fantastic. Thanks so much for commenting. And yeah, I'm willing to bet the tears would flow freely. I alternated between welling up and full-on weeping.

I told my hubs tonight that I wanted each of us to make a list of the other's favorite things, or things they liked and then read it to each other on our anniversary to see if we were right.

He gave me this bemused grin and said, "If that's what you want."

*adds: Likes to please me to the list*
May. 5th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. I'd been considering whether or not to read Jim's book but was undecided. It seemed like the kind of thing I might like, but I wasn't sure. Reading you review, however, has helped push me toward definitely getting my hands on a copy.

P.S. Got the e-mail, but then got involved in some things and haven't gotten back to you. But I wanted you to know, I hear every word loud and clear and I'm here whenever :).
May. 6th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Reading you review, however, has helped push me toward definitely getting my hands on a copy.

Do! You, especially, will see a lot of meaning in his words. You see so deeply between the lines and take truth and tenderness to heart in such a unique way. I would love to hear what you thought when you finished.

But I wanted you to know, I hear every word loud and clear and I'm here whenever.

And that's exactly why I love you.
May. 6th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Absolutely wonderful. You've brought me to tears all over again. (I'm one of those that had to put the book down for a while ...) Would you consider posting this as a review at Amazon? It would mean a great deal to Jim, who has asked if people would do that. His publisher *does* pay attention to the Amazon reviews.

Anywho. Beautifully put, dear lady. Indeed, I feel the need to look at my own spouse of 25 years, just to see if I am half so true to him as Jim was - still is - to Cecily. *HUGS*
May. 6th, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
SO funny that you say that about Amazon -- I would never have thought to do so, but I put this review on my Facebook page and Jim messaged me with a thank-you for the review, then asked the same thing!

So... I waded through the process of Amazon posting, and it's now there. I saw that Bardicvoice had one up there as well, so I'm in good company. :)

*hugs back*

Thanks for reading and commenting.
May. 6th, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
Bless you! Your review is so heartfelt and personal and eloquent that I felt it simply deserves to be seen, and it is such a shining light on Jim's book. Heh, I'm glad he agreed! ;-) My review will go up there when I can compose some thoughts ... It's been really hard for me to find actual words!

*HUGS* Slainte!
May. 6th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
Awesome review. I'm about 200 pages into the book - taking my time reading it, only a handful of entries each night. I don't know if I've ever read such an equally heart-wrenching/heart-warming story in one fell swoop such as this. I'm loving it and have recommended it to SPN outsiders as well. I've loved Jim as Ellesworth and as Bobby (he was the first SPN character to speak to my muse!) and as Jim the public (con) figure. And now I love him even more as father, husband and human.

At a con last year, a few of us had the opportunity to speak with Samantha Ferris and she spoke so very highly of Jim... called him a saint and tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke so fondly of him. Reading his story, it's so easy to understand why.
May. 6th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
At a con last year, a few of us had the opportunity to speak with Samantha Ferris and she spoke so very highly of Jim... called him a saint and tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke so fondly of him...

OH, my. I can only imagine! I don't know how he managed to be Ellesworth as well as everyone says he was (I haven't seen Deadwood, but I don't doubt the praise) with everything he was dealing with during that time.

Enjoy the rest of the book. You're on your way out of the valley.
May. 6th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
Dude, I wanted to read this since I heard he was bringing it out. I read his blog on facebook and he makes me sad and he makes me smile and I'm constantly amazed by his life that is so open to us and how real he is with his feelings. His love for Cecily and Maddie make me wish more people are like Jim in this world.

After reading this? I not only want to read this but I need to. I feel moved just reading your thoughts on it. I need a copy. I think I will be ordering it this weekend ... i've waited long enough.

Thanks for your thoughts

Word, Rodge
May. 6th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
His love for Cecily and Maddie make me wish more people are like Jim in this world.

Yes! That's it exactly!

Also? I saw you posted the last of your epic holiday. I'm off to read it over then next couple of days now that you've got it all up. :)
Jan. 31st, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?.
Feb. 1st, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
Sure! I'd appreciate a link back here if you do. What's your blog name/link?

Thanks for your interest.

Mar. 20th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.
Mar. 20th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Thank you! I appreciate you taking time to say so.

( 20 Tall Tales — Tell Me A Story )

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