Top positive review
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Looks can be deceiving...this book tells the truth
on April 26, 2006
Everybody has a story. As editor of a newsletter, it's not unusual for me to receive an e-mail or letter requesting that I review a book for possible inclusion in our publication. After all, we target a market specifically for those with chronic pain. Most of the time, I'm happy to at least look but I do so with optimistic skepticism. Our readers have a lot to deal with already. If I can't endorse a book, in my editorial opinion, I opt out of giving it published space. My first criteria is that a book should "do no harm" in its effort to do good. I also prefer to give the space to books, which warrant attention. Just Fine deserves both space and attention.
In her own words, the author states the uniqueness of her book: "There is an absence of resources that examines an individual's outward appearance and how it runs contrary to their pain, symptoms, and inner world." While the 336 page book is divided approximately in half, the theme of dealing with appearing "normal" despite how you feel runs consistently from beginning to end. In the first half, the author's revelation of what it is like to uncover and ultimately accept a diagnosis and the limitations, changes and medical challenges that come with that diagnosis - despite looking fine - is unlike any other book I've read. The author's own black and white photographs of people she's interviewed and whose stories are included will greet you in the second half. Stop and look at the faces. The fact that you cannot "see" what disorder they have is what Just Fine is all about.
In Chapter One, "why seeing is not always believing", the author explains, "Human nature, for the most part, is visually oriented. We believe what we see and often make character judgments based solely on visual perceptions. But, what happens when the person who appears healthy, energetic, and just fine to family, friends, and coworkers, is quietly suffering from chronic pain or the challenges of an ongoing illness?" This point continues to be painstakingly revealed in the personal stories collected and shared by the author from others who live and deal daily with these chronic illnesses. The idea that someone can look fine and not feel as good as they appear seems an unlikely paradox. Often the first exchange between two people is, "Hi, how are you?" followed by, "You look great!" Should a person admit their "secret" suffering and/or pain and risk that too familiar look of skepticism?
The author strikes further to the core of the matter: many struggle to live as "normal" as they look and rationalize the consequences when they cannot. She says it simply, "One may recover from the shock of an illness but not from the illness itself. This is where it is essential to develop and utilize new skills". The more disabling the disorder, no matter how invisible, the more your life will change. How will it change and what can you do about it? The author's two decades of counseling experience shines through, especially in the stories. While many offer hope and inspiration, she also includes those stories that don't have it all figured out yet --because with a chronic condition, the story doesn't always have a nice, neat ending.
Just Fine is an amazing book that will touch the reader on many different levels, especially emotionally. This is not, however, a coping book as much as it is a "comfort" book. The author goes beyond the personal and offers the practical as well in dealing with subjects as family, work, friends, depression and medical therapies, including alternative options. It is indeed a resource for those with a "concealed illness" whose story is finally well told -- as well as anyone else -- family, doctors, support group leaders who wants to truly "see" them, too.