Hope for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.

SUPERSURVIVORS

THE SURPRISING LINK BETWEEN SUFFERING AND SUCCESS

Two psychologists provide a nontechnical exploration of how certain people not only survive trauma, but actually thrive after a traumatic experience.

Feldman (Counseling Psychology/Santa Clara Univ.; co-author: The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One, 2008, etc.) and Kravetz use artfully described case studies to demonstrate their point, while also avoiding excessive psychological terminology. The authors base each chapter on a particular aspect of change in the trauma victim—e.g., individuals such as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who was forced to reassess her understanding of the world around her after tragedy: in her case, the loss of her son in the Iraq war. For others, there is an awakening to faith, as in the case of social activist James Cameron, who testifies that he was saved from lynching by God. There are also intensely powerful stories of forgiveness, such as that of Clemantine Wamariya, who survived the slaughter in Rwanda, followed by life as a refugee. However, the very aspect that makes the book approachable also limits its effectiveness. The authors’ work is largely anecdotal in nature and does not delve into true analysis of the supersurvivor phenomenon. Though they provide some discussion of the psychological, physical and social aspects of these survivors’ stories, readers are left wondering just how often a trauma survivor thrives in such ways, and why. Nevertheless, the book is uplifting and provides hope for the human condition. Feldman and Kravetz’s closing story—about Nobel Peace Prize recipient Betty Williams—is particularly riveting. Her life was drastically changed one day when she witnessed a senseless sectarian killing in Northern Ireland. Instead of recoiling, she acted and began a peace movement that changed the history of that country.

Hope for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-226785-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Wave

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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