Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life in Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer

Life in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice
By Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer
Copyright 2010
Multnomah Books - Nonfiction/Memoir
209 pages
Author's "Reaching You" website

Kristen Anderson was a well-adjusted teenager, happy and athletic, with lots of friends . . . until loss threw her into a deep dark depression. Within two years, three of her friends and her grandmother died. And, then she was raped. Threatened by the boy who raped her, she chose to keep the pain to herself but eventually it become too much for her to handle.

One night, she walked to the park near her home. In the distance, she heard the sound of a train. The train tracks ran next to the park and in a moment of despair she decided to end her life. She lay across the train tracks and waited to die. Instead, Kristen's legs were severed. The train sucked her up, but some other force shoved her back down and when the train stopped, she saw her legs lying 10 feet away from her body. She was alive, but barely. And, she would never be the same.

Talk about a good reason not to attempt suicide. When I read the description of Life in Spite of Me, I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted to read it. It sounded so horrifying -- to have one's legs chopped off because of a really bad decision and then have to live with the reality of that moment forever. Horrible. But, a part of me was curious about what drove the author to try to end her life and why, of all things, her book claims that she's living a happy and productive life.

Life in Spite of Me tells about Kristen's descent into depression and it is definitely tough reading about her pain. Most of the book is very emotional. After failing to kill herself, she had to go through numerous surgeries and deal with the depression that led her to attempt suicide in the first place. Her battle was lengthy and rough; she was in constant pain. Doctors told her she would have to remain on anti-depressants for life.

So, what led to the change in her life? It was a discovery of faith. She was a church-going Christian but had not been "saved" in the scriptural sense. Her newfound faith, study of the Bible, and the decision to help others eventually helped Kristen to develop the courage to stop taking anti-depressants.

Life in Spite of Me is a very quick read and it's written in simple language. In a lot of "recovery from disaster" books, you end up reading about the medical aspect in great detail. That's not the focus in this particular book. Instead, the author zones in on emotion and healing, faith and hope. I'm so accustomed to reading gory details of disaster recovery that I found the lack of medical detail a little surprising, but actually it was rather nice not to slog through the whole medical end of the recovery. The author's objective is straightforward: she doesn't want anyone to go through what she's experienced and she feels compelled to share her story about how her faith has made her life better than it was before.

4/5 - A fascinating, awful, eventually-uplifting story of how one young lady turned her personal tragedy into something positive.

Kristen Anderson has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and I've watched the video clip. She seems stunningly happy and light-hearted. I highly recommend it. You can view the video clip via Kristen's website, by clicking on the photo of her shaking hands with Oprah.


  1. It sounds like a very emotional read, I'm not sure if I could make it through the first part of that book.

  2. Jeane,

    It's definitely emotional, but I didn't personally have a hard time reading the book. I think because it's such a quick read, it was one that I buzzed through and then sat back to think about the reality. Fortunately, by that point you're aware that things have turned out well. I don't think I could have adapted to having no legs the way the author has. You have to admire her spunk.

  3. Wow. This one sounds tough. But really moving.

    Crafting by Candlelight

  4. Amy,

    It's hard reading about her emotions, more than anything. Toward the end, it's more uplifting and a bit of a relief to hear about how she came out of her depressions and now enjoys her life.

  5. This book is wonderful, heart-warming grace at its best. Anderson walked around numb to the world wanting to find a means to end her internal tempest. It is amazing, to say the least, how God can be patient and understanding waiting for someone to finally submit their lives to His will. It took this failed attempt to enlighten Kristen of the love that always surrounded her.

  6. Anonymous12:53 PM

    Am I the only one who did not enjoy this book? Not because of the details; it just left me with a lot of questions. I am a Christian as well.


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