Wilmes’ memoir offers an inspirational guide for getting through the often sudden and disorienting twists that life throws our way.
The eldest of nine children raised on a Missouri farm, the now 50-something Wilmes was steeped in traditional Catholicism. Much of his memoir involves the loss, then rediscovery, of that faith. It this belief system that informs his mantra: “In all sadness, there is joy; in all joy, there is sadness.” Offered as the first volume of an intended trilogy, the narrative covers the first 30 or so years of the author’s life. Here, he shares his journey of self-discovery, which took him through an initially failed effort at college, a variety of jobs, a stint in the Marines, and a temporary return to the family farm to help them during an especially difficult time. Although thematically his tale centers on his crisis of faith and reaffirmation of Christianity, the most poignant sections deal with the loss of his mother to cancer and his acceptance that he must henceforth forge his own path. Wilmes states his literary goal up front: “it is to comfort those who mourn and to help them overcome their challenges and move on with their lives.” Writing in an engaging, pleasantly conversational style, Wilmes displays an endearing honesty about his early tendency to deny the negative emotions surrounding tragedy, a pattern that kept him sheltered from pain and out of touch with the psychological storm that was brewing just below the surface. Eventually, his spiritual optimism led him to professional and personal satisfaction. His text is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, but it becomes weighted down with a repetitious religiosity that obscures what could have been a more universal message of hope and opportunity. As it stands, the most receptive audience likely will be among those who are already believers or who are struggling to reconcile great losses with Christian teachings.
A heartfelt and touching tale of a man who found comfort and strength in his religious convictions.