Blackerby’s narrative begins with her father’s ghost: She reprints portions of a letter he wrote in 1993, which asked her to write again “[i]f you feel so inclined,” then briefly recounts his death by cancer, although his demise really began long before. “I know this now,” she notes. “Life is merely a procession towards death, its meaning defined only by the results of our movement, our journey through it.” She then describes her own journey, largely through the lens of her work as owner of Spirit Fitness Training in Austin, Texas. In chapters organized by exercise concepts (“Balance,” “Breathe,” “Triggers,” “Pain,” etc.) that often contain client stories, Blackerby explains how to find one’s core, to persevere and to achieve “overload”: “If we want growth in our lives, we must be willing to bear the stress and discomfort of the change we seek: Overload. If we do not achieve overload, we will not achieve growth.” Blackerby established her company after a breakdown that followed a stormy past filled with abuse, racism and rape. Her doctor father was autocratic and abusive; her mother was timid and defeated; as a 6-year-old, she was repeatedly raped by a 15-year-old family friend; she was also raped twice in college; and her multiracial family experienced major upheaval when they had to leave their privileged existence in Jamaica for Canada and, eventually, America. Blackerby concludes her saga by recalling her grandmother, a positive force in her childhood, and with a poem of self-empowerment that ends: “See you at the gym.” One can easily see how Blackerby must be a wonderful trainer. She demonstrates great empathy: Her encouragement of a retired widow seeking to climb to the heights of Machu Picchu is a particularly inspirational and heartwarming example. Blackerby is at times a bit elliptical relating her own rather overwhelming story, which may leave some readers wanting more. Overall, however, Blackerby has effectively harnessed the power of “muscle memory,” providing a series of gracefully written vignettes from her own and others’ lives to support a larger narrative trained on hope and recovery.
An evocative, compelling account of childhood trauma and the strength of a mind-body connection.