Tag Archives: PTSD

Courage Doesn’t Always “Rawr”: A Book Review of “Fearless” by Kristin Johnson

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But if you do worry, remember that being fearless doesn’t mean you’re never afraid. And if you can help someone else through their fears, you’ll be less likely to be afraid yourself.

Kristin Johnson’s Fearless struck a chord with me, and it was not a note of fear but of empathy and nostalgia. The story’s premise is that 11-year-old Jessie Nelson and her dad head to her grandpa’s house in southern Minnesota after her active-duty mom goes missing in action. Jessie becomes friends with two local boys, Oscar and Nicky, and when an adventure turns into the discovery of a puppy mill, Jessie tries to be fearless like her mom as she rescues one of the dogs and endeavors to keep it a secret. She reflects that “now I had chosen a war, too. I hoped the research I had done at the library would help with that. The dogs were prisoners of war. Dog POWs.” This is one of my favorite aspects of Jessie’s character; Johnson does an admirable job of demonstrating how Jessie connects the events happening in her own life to what her mother or other military members might be experiencing in Afghanistan. Not only that, but the range of honest emotions and the insightful thoughts that Jessie has, such as how another person or a dog is feeling in a certain situation, add depth to her character. I love that she journals in poems, which might encourage readers to explore writing or poetry, or both! Furthermore, the imagination and thought processes of early adolescence are relatable for middle-grade readers and nostalgic for older readers.

With all that is going on in the world today, Fearless addresses how unsettling and upsetting events can cause us to grow when we rise up to meet them and help others along the way. Johnson neatly juxtaposes this with elements from The Wizard of Oz, which was particularly poignant for me because my mom loved that movie. As may be expected with a story featuring military families, serious topics appear throughout the narrative. There is a military funeral for a townsperson, and one of the characters suffers from PTSD, which is important for people of all ages to be aware of at age-appropriate levels. The puppy mill that is central to the storyline is heartbreaking to read about, but Johnson writes it in such a way that she conveys the awfulness of the situation in as palatable a manner as possible. Fearless contains Christian elements, including faith, prayer, and God’s protection—although there is a mention of a same-sex couple—and all of the aforementioned potentially triggering aspects throughout the narrative are handled with care and sensitivity. Everyone faces daunting challenges at one point or another, and it seems that Jessie sums it up best when she tells her dad: “And I know you still hurt, and you’re probably scared, but you can’t not take risks because you’re afraid of getting hurt. You have to put yourself out there again. You have to be…fearless.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Booksprout and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

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A Longing Fulfilled is a Tree of Life: A Book Review of Amanda Cox’s “The Edge of Belonging”

If the story of my life could say one thing, I’d hope it would show the importance of venturing into the highways and the hedges to let invisible people know they’re seen and loved. To invite them in.

A breathtaking tour de force, Amanda Cox’s The Edge of Belonging tugs at the heartstrings and reminds readers that belonging goes beyond having a place to live to encompass the people who love us and, by so doing, help us to truly belong. Cox employs a split-time structure to tell Ivy and Harvey’s story, and what I love about this format is the short time lapse; the two main storylines take place in 1994 and the present day, creating a small generational gap that allows readers to follow the same characters from one period of time to another. For a debut novel, The Edge of Belonging hits the perfect notes, drawing all of the characters together in a symphony both heartwarming and bittersweet.

With this intricately nuanced cast of characters, Cox demonstrates her keen understanding of and insight into the human psyche. In the present: a broken 24-year-old young woman who does not know who she is anymore and wonders if she ever did. Twenty-four years prior: a homeless man with a sorrowful past who finally has solitude and routine until he finds a newborn baby. An older woman heartbroken from recent losses but with much love still to give. A couple aggrieved by their inability to have children. And the thread of hope and faith that binds them all together.

My favorite aspect of the characters is how they exemplify Jesus amidst their mistakes and brokenness and humanness. Pearl is a prime example of this, and she is my favorite character, despite my incorrect characterization of her when she is first introduced. As a result of this and of several scenarios in the narrative, I find The Edge of Belonging to be convicting. How often do we judge someone based on their behavior or appearance without making any effort to reach out to them or know them on a personal level? Pearl is one of the foremost characters who demonstrates openhearted compassion, which she sums up in a simple and beautiful way: “Nurturing is nurturing. It doesn’t take a blood relative. We’re all adopted into God’s family through Jesus. And I decided long ago that if it was good enough for God, it was good enough for me. So I set in my heart that I would love and mother anyone who crossed my path who needed that kind of love.

By far one of the best debut novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading, The Edge of Belonging gently speaks to many current issues, including PTSD, fostering and adoption, domestic violence, abuse, grief, and both platonic and romantic love. Most of all, it guides us toward the unconditional love of the One Who gave His life for us, and in Whose arms we will always find our place of belonging.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

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