Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Stronger" by Jeff Bauman (with Bret Witter)

  There are certain days in every persons life that stand out on a national or global scale.  For my parent's generation is was things like D-day and the shooting of JFK.  For my generation (or at least in my case) it's September 11th, the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing.  I can tell you where I was and what I was doing when each of those things happened.  I can tell you who broke the news to me and all the feelings that went through my body as I listened to reports.  I wasn't even "there" (like in the situation) for any of those moments, yet I carry them with me.  How much more those who were there.
  To be honest, this wasn't exactly my next book of the year.  I actually started another book, which was quite interesting but might of been one of those bite off more than you can chew books for me, and I probably wouldn't have finished it for months.  So when reading that book turned more into homework than enjoyment, I returned it to the library and just started skimming the shelves.  I had a list with me (I always have a list), but this book... Stronger... wasn't on my list. I saw the title out of the corner of my eye and once I looked at the cover I immediately knew what it was about.  I hadn't intended to check it out, but a few pages in I was hooked...not just cause of the story or the writer, but more so because of his writing style. 
  I don't know Jeff Bauman as the celebrity that many other people do.  I didn't recognize his name, although I did recognize him by the photo I saw in the book (and in the newspapers at the time of the bombing), but beyond that I knew nothing of him.  In fact, it wasn't until about halfway through reading his story that I googled his name and realized there was a whole world of people out there who had all sorts of opinions of this guy and who he is or might be (think conspiracy theorist).  People are entitled to their own thoughts and opinions, but for me, reading this book, I have nothing but respect for this man.  I can't even imagine what he's been through... even after watching it on TV and reading his thoughts.  Then being able to put it all on paper and to connect with people in writing it...balancing the reality of what happened with your own thoughts and feelings, while still recovering from it all (if you can ever fully recover from such a thing).  He's right, He is strong!
  The story in the book talks about the day of the bombing (and a little before), the aftermath, the recovery and the "new normal" Bauman now faces.  There's such a good balance of showing both the good moments and the bad moments of the journey.  Jeff doesn't make himself out to be this perfect saint who just passed through it all with ease and flying colors...perfect A's all the way.  Sure he shares highlights of getting visits from celebrities and moments he was a symbol of inspiration to people, but he also shares about the hard times and the pain and the frustration of it all.  He tells about fights he had and things he said and did wrong.  He writes about his feelings and even how hard it is for him talk about those feeling or even think about that day (ironically since that's what the book is about).  I applaud him for putting it all out there, for not shying away and for not letting anyone take away from HIS story (naysayers, media or even terrorists).
  I will say that for me, the hero of the story isn't just Bauman.... actually pretty much everyone in the story is a hero in someway... but for me, it was actually his girlfriend who stood out to me the most.  What a firm foundation she is... what an inspiration.  Again, she's not made out to be perfect.... her struggles through out are very apparent... but she's there and she's strong and she doesn't let the world (or anyone in it) change their story.  This tragedy happened, but together these two people... Jeff and Erin... made their life through it.  That should be celebrated!
  Again, this isn't really one of those books that can be rated.  I can say it's a super easy read and you get sucked in pretty quickly (although maybe that's cause it happened just a few years ago), but  ultimately I think it's a story of triumph and over coming odds and seeing the good in the midst of the bad... and who doesn't want to read something like that!  But more than that, there's a spirit in this book that goes beyond just the "Boston  Strong" slogan mentioned time and time again.  It's a spirit of love and community and humanity at it's best (and worst!). I will leave you with one of my favorite things that Jeff Bauman said about the whole situation.  He said, "I'm coming out of this experience with damage.  I guess you'd call it suspicion.  I know how evil humans can be, and I'm watchful, because the bad guys are out there. But I know something else too; Bad people are rare.  But Good people are everywhere"!  Here's to the good people!

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