Book Review {rare bird}

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love 
rare bird: a memoir of loss and love
Anna whiston-Donaldson

I feel like I’m on a dark book trend. Books that are sad. Emotional. But also hopeful. Spots of happiness. Sometimes… even redeeming. This and the next book review will be in the same genre.  Since we had a week at camp I was able to do a bit more reading than usual and it was lovely!

I wouldn’t have picked this book out, except that it was recommended by a friend. It’s not too long, easy to read from a literary standpoint, but hard to read emotionally.

A Mom, Anna, loses her son, Jack. At 12. He dies in a freak flood, in Vienna, VA, only five years ago. Swept away by an usually harmless stream. She tells the story in vivid detail in the opening chapters of the book, I’m not giving anything away. I couldn’t put it down. I knew from the onset that she looses her son, but I NEEDED to know the details. I wants to know her son. I wanted to know her.

And most of all I wanted to know how she survives. I know loosing my two sons half way through a pregnancy was really hard… and it’s still really hard. But she had 12 years of knowing and loving her son. How did she survive? How did she pick up and carry on?

Most of the book is about the year after he died. What she struggled with, how friends met her, how some friends disappeared and other friends, seemingly acquaintances, stepped up and became dear, close friends. How people served and cared for her through this time. How her marriage struggled, but didn’t crumble. Her relationship with her surviving daughter was tense and shaky, but they made it through.

Hearing her raw emotion and honest struggles were good for me. Another book that could sometimes speak what I was feeling when I didn’t know it myself.

Sometimes it described what I thought of me as a friend to others and how I’ve changed. This is me…

“It dawned on me that I’ve never walked beside someone in deep pain. I’ve been more of a drive-by friend, the kind who reaches out once or twice and hopes the situation will be resolved quickly. I care. I cry. I pray. But I don’t stick around long, I’m the type of friend you would want around for a broken ankle but not for chronic depression. I get a sense I’m learning from the women who show up for me. Who offer themselves up in a way that I’ve never had the guts to do. They are braver than they think.” Page 89

“I promise myself that I will never again assume that someone’s closest friends are meeting their needs in a crisis and that I won’t use my own feelings of inadequacy as an excuse to not reach out.” page 105

In my walk through my own pain over the last 18 months I’ve seen miraculous displays of God’s love for me, His tenderness, His control, and glimpses of His plan. I wish I could share all the stories, because not only are they amazing, but they boost my faith. Anna, too had similar experiences. Miraculous displays of God’s active and loving care for her and her family:

“Each connection, each glimpse of the supernatural, is an astonishing display of tender, personal love and that’s what I want other to know, even if they don’t experience them firsthand. Even when there are no signs, God is still close. But with signs we are sometimes able to glimpse a little bit of the mystery of god in a way that amazes and encourages us right where we are.

Signs remind me that the God I believe in is active right now, pouring compassion out on my own little hurting life. And that Jack’s soul is alive and well. I take them not as a shout, but as a caress or a holy whisper: ‘I’m here… Never will I leave you or forsake you… Didn’t Jack say nothing is impossible with God?’”

I was encouraged by this book. Maybe you will be as well.

If you’d like to read more on her blog or read more about her recent life you can on her blog An Inch of Gray. Enjoy!