Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson

book cover

Life, In Spite of Me:
Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice
by Kristen Jane Anderson
with Tricia Goyer

Hardback: 224 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books
First Released: 2010

Author's ministry website

Source: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Back Cover Description:
She wanted to die. God had other plans.

Why does my life have to be so painful? What’s wrong with me? It’s not going to get better. It could all be over soon, and then I won’t hurt anymore.

Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture-perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook: three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a seemingly bottomless depression.

One January night, the seventeen-year-old decided she no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.

But Kristen's story doesn’t end there.

In Life, In Spite of Me this remarkably joyful young woman shares the miracle of her survival, the agonizing aftermath of her failed suicide attempt, and the hope that has completely transformed her life, giving her a powerful purpose for living.

Her gripping story of finding joy against all odds provides a vivid and unforgettable reminder that life is a gift to be treasured.

Includes notes of encouragement Kristen wishes she had received when she was struggling most.

Life, In Spite of Me is an inspirational memoir. As a teen, the author's family didn't talk about bad things, so she held all her grief and confusion inside when her father was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and depression, her grandmother died, a friend in her school was put in the hospital with a brain tumor, a close friend committed suicide, and a guy she liked raped her. She turned to drinking and partying in an attempt to find some relief, but that only made things worse. If any of these things has happened to you or you're struggling with depression, then this book will bring you hope and show you how Anderson found the way to joy.

The memoir was written "in her head as it happened" rather than in a "looking back" style, which created a tension that kept me turning the pages. The book was a fast read and was written in an easy-to-read way. The book began with the gripping re-telling of her attempted suicide, then she told about the events leading up to the attempt, and then about her hard recovery and journey to joy and purpose in God.

It truly is an amazing story. I'd highly recommend this book, especially to people who struggle with depression or wonder if life will ever get any better.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Dear reader,

This is my story. Sometimes it gets a little crazy…you’ll see, but my guess is that in many ways my story and yours are not that different. Between some of the chapters you will find personal notes from me to you. These include things I wish I had known, things I wish someone had told me back then. I hope you will find what I’ve shared encouraging.

I am praying for you.



Numb. The cold Illinois wind chilled my body.

Numb. My mind, my heart.

At just past 6:00 p.m., the sky was black, and the icy January air hovered over the ground as a thick, misty fog. Snow clung to the dirt in patches, and my heart felt as dead as the wintry world around me. Silently, I trudged through the park and tugged my knit gloves tighter. I wanted only to be happy and for life to be a little easier, but everything seemed to be getting worse.

On one side of me, the park was dark and silent. Once full of life and laughter, my soul was the same. Play equipment, empty and laced with frost, sat motionless. In the other direction, lights from the town attempted to penetrate the fog. The idea of going home caused a heavy weight to sink in my stomach. I didn’t want to face my parents.

Or my life.

Cold seeped through my jeans and coat as I sat down on the hard wooden seat of a nearby swing. Frozen chains creaked softly, and my thoughts took me back to all the times I’d played at this park during happy childhood days—too many to count. Now I was seventeen; those days were long past.

Why does life have to be so painful?

I turned in the swing, twisting the chains above my head tighter and tighter. Then I released. My body unwound in a slow turn. If only the invisible chains wrapped around my heart would free as easily.

A car drove by, and my body tensed. The park closed at dusk. Policemen patrolled the area, and I knew if they found me they’d send me home.

I don’t want to go back… I just can’t do it.

I’d never hung out in this park at night before. I didn’t like being there, but I had no idea where else to go. I just needed time—time to figure out what to do next.

My gaze turned to the two sets of railroad tracks at the edge of the park. The first set of tracks was empty. A cluster of six cars sat on the second set. I knew the cops wouldn’t be able to see me there.

Sluggishly, I made my way over to the line of railroad cars. My eyes zeroed in on the last car. I climbed up the side of it and sat, dangling my legs. I’m not sure how much time passed. Maybe an hour, maybe two. The danger of sitting on the train car put me on edge. After all the years living so near the railroad tracks, I’d never ventured this close.

I blew warm air into my hands, trying to thaw them, but it did little good.

What’s wrong with me?

Everyone else seemed to be able to handle the burdens, the struggles of life, better than I could. All I wanted was to be happy. To have the perfect life I always thought I had when I was a kid. But my arms had grown tired from trying to hold my fantasy world together.

Lately, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. I wasn’t there for my friends and family when they needed me. I was doing horribly in school, and I’d become a worry to my family. Now I was “grounded until further notice.” I pushed the most recent argument with my parents out of my mind. And then there was the pain that ran even deeper than that. Memories too painful to think about. I pushed them back below the surface, as I had for months. In the past year I’d started smoking, drinking, and partying with my friends on the weekends, futilely trying to escape the pain.

I looked down at the railroad tracks and remembered a time I’d realized the power of a train. A train would kill anyone in an instant. No one could survive that. If I ever wanted to take my life, if ever…that’s the way I’d do it.

The cold air around me brought me back to the moment. A deeper chill settled into my bones—and my thoughts grew darker; I knew I didn’t want anyone to worry about me anymore. More than that, I wanted the
pain to stop.

If I ever want my life to end…this would be my chance.

It’s not going to get better. There’s no reason I need to be here. There’s nothing I’m supposed to do here. They’d be better off without me.

I tried to think of a reason to stay around, to live, but I could think of only one, my two nephews.

I’m not a very good example anymore. They’re probably better off without me anyway, and I don’t have any kids of my own. No younger brothers and sisters either. There’s nothing important I’m supposed to do. My family, my friends…They’ll get over me, right? I’m just causing pain and problems.

I looked around again at the cold, dark night.

This night is icky.

The world is disgusting.

My life sucks.

It could all be over soon, and then I won’t hurt anymore.

I thought about school the next day. The homework I hadn’t done.

I’m such a failure.

Do I want my life to end? If the train comes, should I end it?

Conflicting thoughts ping-ponged, faster, faster.

It’s going to get better.

It isn’t going to get better.

There’s a reason I’m here.

There’s no reason I’m here.

There’s something I’m supposed to do here.

There’s nothing I’m supposed to do here.

I was cold, and it was late. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know where to go.

Suddenly, a train whistle split the air. My heart pounded. I hadn’t expected the train. Not yet. I still hadn’t decided what to do.

I knew it would be a long time before the next train. This is my chance.

The thoughts came as fast as the train speeding toward me.

I’m so cold. This might be the only train for a while.

If I did it, the pain, the heartache, the numbness would be over.

I’m gonna do it. Soon it will all be over.

I stood between the parked train cars. I glanced across the dip between the tracks I was on and the ones the approaching train was speeding down.

I waited until the train got closer. I didn’t want the engineer to see me. I didn’t want him to stop the train. The large outline of the train’s engine was barely visible beyond the bright headlight. It was almost here.

Heaven waited for me. I was sure of it. I was a good person.

Heaven has to be better than this life.

My heart pounded as I ran up the small bank. The train’s headlight illuminated me. Its horn blared. I tried to push down the fear and shame, turned my face away from the train, and lay facedown.

I clenched my fists, crossed my arms under my head, and braced myself, closing my eyes tight. My head and body lay between the tracks, my legs hung over the rail. I could feel the cold metal against my thighs and the wood and rocks under my stomach. As the train closed in, the ground shook so much that my whole body vibrated. Then the train was upon me, over me.

Pain overwhelmed me. The train roared.

The momentum of the cars pulled at me, as if the train were trying to suck me into itself. The wind tugged harder, wrenching at my jacket and yanking my hair upward. My body rose, lifting slightly.

Then, even more powerful than the wind and the momentum of the train, another force pushed me to the ground. My head and chest hit first, then my hips and legs. Again I felt the power of the train, the shaking of the ground, the roar of it moving over me. The force of the weight pushing me down hurt more than anything else.

Fear coursed through me. I squeezed my eyes tighter.

It’s going to be over now. The pain is going to end. I’ll be in heaven soon.

As the whistle blew again, the vibration of my body stilled.

The sound stopped. The wind stopped. The train stopped.

Am I dead yet?

Read the rest of chapter one.

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