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...