Astronaut and physician Hilmers’ life has been one of great variety, color and faith—and even a few missteps.
It is breathtaking to read of what Hilmers has achieved since he left the small town in Iowa where he was born. From college, he becomes a naval flight officer in the Marines, goes on to gain a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, joins the corps of space shuttle astronauts, becomes a doctor and academic, then partakes in fieldwork around the globe, tending the poor and in need. Houston spools this out in Hilmers’ first-person voice in matter-of-fact fashion and with a generous helping of humility. The humility comes in part from his religiosity, which he doesn’t overplay—except, perhaps, in the last few pages—but comes in sincere-sounding, deep-running bursts: “God knew exactly what was best for me and my life. He worked it out for his purpose and glory….” But don’t sell Hilmers short when it comes to personal drive and reflectiveness; he was brought up with an ethic of hard work and curiosity, with the desire to do things well, “but not at the expense of someone else. I was competitive, yes, but only to take away the clouds of doubt in my heart and see how far I could push myself.” And it is plenty far—his energy level is exhausting to witness—despite a few sojourns down wayward paths (“I was a sinner in need of salvation”); it now finds him tangling with the spoils of suffering every day, making a difference.
A rewarding story, low-key despite its frank heroics. (Nonfiction. 10-14)