23 September 2011

On forgiveness and second chances

** Deborah Reed's debut novel Carry Yourself Back to Me follows heartbroken singer-songwriter Annie Walsh as she digs into the past to exonerate her brother from murder. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Carry Yourself Back to Me on book club day, September 22 at From Left to Write.**

Carry Yourself Back to Me by Deborah Reed

I really enjoyed reading this book.  I really enjoyed it. This is a debut novel and I really like the author's writing style.  I have a bad habit of picking apart the author's writing style when I read, as opposed to just allowing the story to carry me along, but I suppose that's an occupational hazard.  Sometimes I just can't keep reading, if the style distracts me too much, but I found Reed's style compelling and a little mysterious.  Maybe suspenseful is a better word...at the end of each chapter, she threw in a little twist that made me stay up too late to find out what happened, saying to myself, "Just till I see what what she does now, then I'll put it down."

This book got me thinking, as good books are supposed to do, and it got me thinking about second chances.  Seems to me that just about every character in this book, major and minor, got a second chance.  Bad guys got a chance to be good guys, broken hearts got a chance to heal and love again, and dreams that seemed crushed had a chance to breathe again.

Forgiveness and second chances are not the same thing, but it sure is hard to give someone a second chance when you're not willing to forgive.  Then again, if you forgive, that doesn't always mean you're willing to give a second chance.  

I have been blessed throughout my life, with many, many second chances.  I find it kind of funny and ironic that friends from my wild and mis-spent youth would not recognize the small-town, church-going, stay-home wife and mom I have become, while friends that I have now would not recognize the somewhat wild-child, party-girl, dancing-on-the-edge-of-legal rebel kid that I used to be.  I had something a little bit removed from the childhood my own little people are enjoying.  They have both parents still living, still married to one another, in a nice comfortable house with dinner on the table (oh alright, sometimes it gets delivered in a box from the pizza guy, but whatever!) every night, good friends at a great school, all the books and Legos and video games any three kids could want, and very few worries.  I used to feel sorry for myself for the raw deal I thought life had given me, but I've come to see my rough beginnings as a blessing. 

I got a second chance. 

I was at a crossroads as a young teen, poised on the brink of that time in life when bad decisions really can follow you for a lifetime instead of being mostly temporary and erasable.  And then what I thought was the worst possible thing happened: I was uprooted from one home to another.  I thought it was the end of the world, and that my life was over.  In reality, it was just beginning.  Had I stayed in the other place, I was all but certain to head down a path that was littered with bad decisions and unpleasant consequences.  That is not to say I never made a bad choice again, or that I didn't live with any unpleasant consequences; to the contrary, I did just that.  But my new environment afforded me opportunities that the old one had not and much better guidance along the rocky path to adulthood that kept me from completely careening out of control and over the edge.  I found my way.  Not perfectly, not without mistakes and regrets and tears, but I found my way. 

My father was alternately emotionally abusive, or completely absent.  He was a guy who always seemed to have circumstances stacked against him, he had a lot of bad things happen to him, and he got bitter about it.  He and I didn't see eye to eye on many things, and we hurt each other.  A lot. Ultimately we spent a lot of years estranged and not speaking.  Until he got really sick.

I gave a second chance. 

A lot of water passed under the bridge that last week he spent in hospice and I learned that forgiveness isn't something you give to the other person, it's a gift you give to yourself. Putting down that baggage is blessed relief.  You're the only one that carries it; it's only a burden for you, not the other person.  It's easier to move forward when your load is that much lighter.

Second chances are a gift.  A beautiful gift to be treasured and not squandered. 

In Carry Yourself Back to Me, Annie extended forgiveness and received second chances.  It was only after setting down her angry baggage and forgiving those who had hurt her, that her hands were open and able to receive the second chances. 

Have you ever been given a second chance?  Were you able to receive it? 


Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

Second chances are amazing. I think realizing that you've been giving a second chance is the big challenge.

Deborah Reed said...

Your story is so heartbreaking and moving. Thank you so much for sharing it. I can see how my novel would have resonated with you. I'd hoped the themes were universal and could strike a chord (so to speak) with most everyone, but your story in particular seems very fitting here. I admire your brave and wise outlook. Bravo to you!
And thank you so much for mentioning my writing style. I work so hard to make it the way I envision it should be, reflecting the content and atmosphere of the novel itself while doing the pedestrian job of telling the story. It's so good to hear you enjoyed it.
All best,

Kristine said...

Wow! What an incredibly insightful post. Something I need to think about...

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I think it's amazing the ways this book touched people in so many different ways :)

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Amen to 2nd chances! What a thoughtful and moving post. I wholeheartedly agree about 2nd chances. I was estranged from my bio father, he left us, but I have always felt that forgiveness is freeing for the spirit.

Some Suburban Mom said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! Deborah, again, I thoroughly enjoyed your novel...bravo to you for putting it just right. I felt like Annie could have been someone I knew, I just wanted to get to know her more.

I'm not a particularly private person as you may have noticed; what you see is pretty much what you get. I don't put everything out there but not much is off limits for me. I am happy to see all of your comments...this book gave me lots to think about and I hope that maybe what I've said here will cause someone to think about second chances and forgiveness.

Kim, I think you're right...realizing you have the opportunity is the real challenge.

Some Suburban Mom said...

And, I hope I didn't sound snarky about picking apart writing styles (although I suspect maybe I did). It's just that I find it distracting when I'm reading, to be mentally correcting grammar, or things like that. I'm a bit of a stickler for spelling/grammar and those types of things. It's a sickness; I'm working on it ;)