Waken (My Home Sweet Home: Surviving an Abusive Relationship, 2013) offers a memoir about how unshakable faith carried her through decades of joy and family turmoil.
Following the death of her abusive husband, the author navigates life as a single mother with four children. Waken documents her life in close detail from the early 1960s through the first decade of the new millennium, crediting her Christian faith with giving her the strength to endure challenges great and small—including supporting her family, her son’s near-fatal car accident when he was 17, and moving from Michigan to Alaska at the age of 55. She gives equal weight to life-changing and mundane moments of her life, often pausing to reflect on small blessings: “It is my home sweet home, no matter how humble. I am thankful for a job so I can afford a place to live and have food to eat. Thank you, Lord, You have provided for me and my family for many years.” It’s easy to admire Waken’s humility and her gumption; her memoir details her grace under pressure and her frequent travels to help her family members through myriad struggles. However, the cast of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends who pop in and out of Waken’s story quickly start to blend together. The book often reads more like a personal journal than a memoir, and provides little scene-setting or characterization. Waken frequently mentions the beauty of her beloved Alaska, but provides few descriptive details to place readers there. Likewise, although the book ends with a tragic loss, Waken dedicates more time to outlining the relevant facts of the event than exploring her feelings about the loss and its impact. The book will likely appeal primarily to a Christian audience, who may be more willing to overlook some of its narrative flaws.
A memoir of an admirable, faith-based life, but one that ultimately provides little insight into its author.