Families find a way forward in the midst of life's difficulties
"Defying Gravity: How Choosing Joy Lifted My Family from Death to Life" by Joe Sikorra. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2018). 208 pp., $16.95.
"The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home" by Russell Moore. B&H Books, (Nashville, Tennessee, 2018). 298 pp., $19.95.
"One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passion, and Saying Yes to Them Both" by Jennifer Fulwiler. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2018). 238 pp., $24.99.
"Defying Gravity" provides insight into one family's heart-wrenching reality when two sons, Ben and John, were diagnosed with an incurable disease at an early age. Joe Sikorra and his wife, Lori, open up and share with the readers the emotional journey they are taken on when they discover that their beloved children had a rare neurological disease commonly called juvenile Batten disease.
Faith is a thread that runs throughout this book and throughout the author and his wife's life. Joe Sikorra, a naturally gifted storyteller, takes a page from the apostle Paul as he not only shares the Gospel and God's love but also his "very life" on each page.
The reader will be comforted by their faith, encouraged by the Scripture verses used and be taken for a roller-coaster ride of emotions as one very quickly enters this journey with them. Each day is truly a gift, and by mirroring our experience with Joe and Lori's, the reader will be encouraged to live each day as if it were their first.
"The Storm-Tossed Family" draws its name from a revivalist, evangelical song and the author, Russell Moore, capitalizes on that theme as he draws points of comparisons to life's storms and the expectations of family as a safe place when in reality family can be a place of "spiritual warfare."
The author extracts Christian wisdom and applies lessons from his own experience throughout the stages of courting, marriage, sexuality, raising children, and the various tensions and trauma that family life includes. In the end, God's grace is available for all and the blood of Jesus can redeem even the worst experiences we have had.
Moore, relying mainly on Scripture and his own experience, offers many worthwhile insights. For Catholics, it would have benefited the reader if the author had included the perspective of St. John Paul ll's "Familiaris Consortio" or a few references from the Catholic Church's tremendous treasure of family wisdom.
In "One Beautiful Dream," popular talk show host Jennifer Fulwiler draws from her experience of having six children in eight years and becoming a Catholic to tell the tale of how she wrote a book while balancing family life. Fulwiler, a creative storyteller and engaging radio host, keeps the pages turning by sharing her experiences in often humorous ways. and even when they are quite embarrassing. it will give the reader pause to reflect on similar experiences that most parents have.
This is not a Catholic "how to" book, or one that gives insight into Catholic teaching or spirituality, but rather one woman's story of the difficulty in trying to achieve a goal, writing a book, with young children hanging on each leg. The benefit of this book is that it does offer a change of perspective that parenthood and motherhood provide. She writes, "In my case, I faced interruption after interruption in my house full of babies. And, in the process, I finally learned how to write a book."
The reader will cringe here and there in sympathy due to her honesty and see that when God is placed first in one's life, the unexpected and interruptions are there to form us and shape us.
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Wright is an author, principal of Koinonia Academy in Plainfield, New Jersey, and adjunct professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.