It took me a few beats to type the word 'review' in the title of this post. Mostly because I was searching for a more accurate word which I failed to come upon. This is not a book I am reviewing because it was assigned to me from some third party or chosen from an array offered to me by BookPleasures. I am not so much reviewing this book as singing its praises and encouraging you to go find it and read it. Every so often I come across a book that moves me profoundly. Even so, I can generally write a review of it and move on. "Because of Katie" went one step further and not only moved me but left me with a sense that this book exists for a much higher purpose than simple entertainment.
I know many books strive to do the same, especially nonfiction, especially memoir, and some do manage to leave the reader with that feeling of expansiveness that leads people to recommend them over and over again. "Because of Katie" is different in that it possesses that expansiveness as well as a solid groundedness. Karen Boren Gerstenberger wrote this book not because she was an aspiring writer who wished to share her story, but with an eye toward teaching, informing, deepening understanding of what a family is going through when they are dealing with a major crisis. Her gentle yet firm message comes through without judgment as she describes each step of their journey through diagnosis, aggressive treatment and hospice care for their daughter's terminal cancer. She is able to acknowledge both strengths and areas for improvement at each point along the way, with each person they encountered.
This book is an absolute gift from Gerstenberger to each and every person whose lives are touched by severe illness or injury. From relatives to hospital personnel, communities looking for ways to help and other support staff, every person who has occasion to be in contact with families struggling with uncertainty and discomfort will find lessons in here taught with concern and gentleness.
I am generally a very fast reader, often finishing a book every two to three days, especially if I am enjoying it. "Because of Katie" took me nearly two weeks to finish for several reasons. The story was compelling but painful and difficult to read as my daughter is the same age Katie was when she died. I found myself empathizing with Karen on many different levels, especially given the years of experience we had with Bubba's undiagnosed illness and our trips to and from the hospital. I also read slowly because this book is absolutely packed with information and I wanted to be sure I gave myself time between chapters to decompress and absorb it all.
The detail with which Karen writes about the hospital stays and the upheavals to their family's life brought me right in to the story. The tenderness evident in the way Katie's family responded to her needs and the acknowledgment of her desires (fairly typical for a 12-year-old girl, but not so easily met) is a testament to the high value this family placed on love and shared experience. While their experiences were most certainly unique, there are so many powerful messages about how to reach out and become more effective in our support of families in any kind of crisis that the book itself has the potential to become a teaching tool for multitudes.
I would like to thank Elizabeth for prompting me to read "Because of Katie," and Karen for sharing her wisdom with the world. I am honored to have been allowed this glimpse in to your family's life and feel the better for it.
You can get your own copy of "Because of Katie" here.