My rating: 3 of 5
ebook, 176 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Real Publishing Group
Available on: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook
What they say:
Emotionally gripping and heart-achingly beautiful, In the Mirror will make you think about what’s truly important.
Tracey Garvis Graves New York Times bestselling author
What I have to say:
In the Mirror is the first book by Kaira Rouda that I read. I’ll start this review with the cover. I like the concept of the woman looking at the rear view mirror instead of looking forward. I can see how it relates to the story and its message. What doesn’t quite fit into the equation is that it seems to me like the woman is happy and excited to be looking at whatever is behind her. It would’ve been better if the model didn’t smile with her eyes. A serious stare would’ve made more sense in my opinion. But it is a nice cover, the color palette is lovely. Definitely one that would attract the readers of women fiction.
In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer, a young woman who has it all, a devoted husband, two adorable toddlers, a loving family, caring and dear friends, a successful business but in the midst of all those blessings, she also has cancer.
We meet Jennifer at a facility for sick and terminal patients, where no expense is spared so she can undergo the latest treatment to beat her illness. Throughout the book, we follow Jennifer as she narrates the ups and downs of her life as a woman who wants to feel acknowledged as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend instead of a cancer patient.
In the Mirror is an easy, fast paced book that can be read in one sitting. Unfortunately in our days, it’s rare to find a person who hasn’t been affected directly or indirectly by cancer. There are many books about this topic out there. The cancer theme is respectfully and realistically portrayed in this book. This story is an insightful window into the mind of a cancer patient. It is not a heart-wrenching story, like the blurb of the book said, but it shows you all the possible train of thoughts and emotions a cancer warrior can go through. It is a story that makes you reflect on what you would do if you were not only in the main character’s shoes but in each of the rest of the characters’ shoes.
All of the characters were real and believable. They were not perfect, especially Alex and Julie. Those two are pretty despicable. I was glad that at least one of them turned around and made amends. Jennifer was a likable character. I disagreed with some of her reactions and decisions but they are justified, after all, dealing with the fact that your days on this earth are counted is not something everyone can handle. There are no rules as to how someone has to handle this situation. In my humble opinion, she was doing as best as expected until she let her mind get tangled with her past.
There are many lessons one can take from this book. To me the most important are the following:
You can’t move on if you keep looking back. You need to stop holding on to the past and figure out how to let it go, once you realize that, you will move on. That’s why you have to work hard to live your life to the fullest trying to leave no loose ends that can come back and haunt you when you least expect it. Jennifer’s problems got worse when she let her past walk all over her present. Without giving it away, she had plenty of opportunities to make amends before the big conflict happened. I understand it was the sum of it all that she needed to feel adventurous or alive, but it doesn’t justify her actions. She had time but unfortunately didn’t do anything. I know it’s very easy to say let it go. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of strength and prayer to get to do this. But nothing is impossible.
The other lesson is a lesson of faith. Jennifer’s attitude, actions and outcome in all of this would’ve been different and harmless if instead of just staring at herself in the mirror, wallowing on her thoughts, she embraced her faith and asked guidance from God. She lost the horizon when she started to focus on what she felt she didn’t have, instead of counting her blessings and focusing on what she did have. I didn’t like her attitude during her pastor’s visits; her sarcasm and her lack of respect to her pastor at the hospital were not a good thing to read. Instead of being thankful for the visit, her attitude was unacceptable.
I would’ve given this book one more star if it wasn’t for this detail about her. I know it’s not always rosy and peachy in real life. I know a lot of people especially those who suffer from illnesses are tempted to have a lot of issues with faith. Some are stronger than others. But the thing is that a lot of people might read this book because they are going through something similar to what the characters are going through. It would’ve been nice if the subject of faith was not mentioned so superficially. There are ways the author could’ve written about this without going all Christian fiction. It would’ve been nice if this book could remind people of the part faith plays in situations like these.
Jennifer’s main problem was that even though she had tons of people around her and the best medical treatment possible, deep inside she felt alone and abandoned. Her story would’ve been different if she understood that: Only if we surrender ourselves to a Higher Power we can discover we are not alone, for He loves us and will always be with us, to guide us, give us peace, strength, courage and everything we shall ever need.
The final lesson I take from this book is the importance of therapy in a situation like this. Jennifer had access to every experimental drug to treat her illness but her mental health was a bit neglected IMHO. Despite having people around her, there was no communication between them. She had no one to whom she could turn to and share her deep feelings. Their conversations were somewhat superficial; it seemed to me like her loved ones were too prudent and felt like they didn’t know how to really talk to her.
That is why it is important to make ourselves be really present for our loved ones who are sick. To remind ourselves that an illness doesn’t define a person; they are still themselves despite what their illness makes them look like. Therefore, a good psychotherapy is a great companion not only for the patient but for the family as well, so that communication and the bonds that unite everyone are not broken or strained by this situation; and also it has been proven that psychotherapy may prolong survival in cancer patients.
The ending surprised me.
*SPOILER* I am still undecided to choose between the happy or sad ending. The cover would make sense if I one chooses the happy ending. I’m leaning more to the sad one regardless if it makes me look like a pessimist, but it’s the ending that I think will give closure to Jennifer’s cathartic journey. *END SPOILER*
In the Mirror is a good read. It wasn’t that painful to me but I can see it may be an emotional ride to some readers. A good story for book clubs to discuss subjects such as terminal illness and its strain on marriage, infidelity, relationships, revenge, sibling rivalry, stages of grief, friendship and parenting.
Powerful words that make us aware of what our loved ones might be feeling inside:
Initially, I was caught up in the angry stage of grief, enveloped by it. It ate away at my soul and left me spent, running on nothing but useless emotion.
We are still lovable, even though we are different, look different.
I am whole. Wholly sad, but whole.
We had shared so much, Henry and I. But now we didn’t have anything. I had cancer. He had the kids, the house, the job, the golf, my daddy, my life before. Now I had the ever-over-the-horizon hope for the cure, or the treatment that “prolongs life.” I just had me, and being alone. Or, me, the burden of an otherwise blessed life. I was Henry’s burden. His tithe for success, for our successes. This was our due, the reason we weren’t connected anymore. He needed to be free of me, to be free.
For me, the best thing about life was the people in it. Friends, lovers, teachers, role models—they all made me the person I had become. I needed to reconnect with the living if only for a single night, to be assured my life had meant something and I was not as forgotten as I felt.
A reminder to try to really listen, especially on those “I’m OK moments“:
He should hop on a plane. He should do it now. I told him how I was feeling. Why doesn’t he get it? Why doesn’t he see I really need him? I need him now, before we lose everything..
Never thought of lightning this way:
My son, Hank, believed lightning was God taking pictures, and when I went to heaven, he’d know I was taking lots of pictures of him when the storms came.
It is a fascinating thing the mind.
No matter how many people you fill your life with— or in my case, your good-bye party with—everyone’s journey is singular. We are, no matter how well-adjusted, no matter how happily partnered, and no matter how loved by others, alone.
Whatever time God gives us on this earth, we humans fill it up. Mostly with meaningless, day-to-day activities. That is, after all, the process we call living. We forget to cherish, celebrate every moment as the blessing it is.
This one hit close to home. It was one of those things I needed to hear and really helped me right now.
God doesn’t control everyone, but he does know about everything. He knows who can handle what. You became a victim of someone else’s twisted reality. That wasn’t God’s work. God brought you safely back here, and God will grant you peace.
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