Top critical review
369 people found this helpful
An Untold Love story that's still untold
on January 20, 2013
I am writing this, knowing full well that it will get people up in arms who don't understand that reviews are opinions and don't need to be agreed with. This is an honest review of my experience with the book and my honest opinion, and not in any way a commentary on anyone's personal choices or hardships.
I found the book disappointing and felt like at the end of the book the story was still untold. If you follow their lives then you may be able to fill in the blanks, but as someone who is basically 99% unfamiliar with any details (other than that Joni is a quadrapalegic that started Joni and Friends), the book did not stand alone. It doesn't give the unacquainted reader enough information to adequately feel what they felt, which is really the purpose of a memoir.
For example, the book really glosses over how they fell in love. There's a lot of detail about how Joni first noticed Ken, but not about what attracted Ken to Joni. What made him choose such a difficult path? At one point she even writes, "And what about sex? Is that the elephant in the room everyone is talking about? And would we be able to have children?" Those questions are never revisited.
I definitely do not want any details about what happens behind closed doors, but as the mother of two severely disabled children I was absolutely left with this big question mark about how they fell in love. Going into their marriage what was he thinking? What was he feeling? Obviously he didn't know what he was getting into (and how can you unless you've done hands on care taking like that?), but what did he understand? My husband and I didn't choose that path for ourselves, it was thrust upon us and for most people that's how it goes. Ken's choices are absolutely remarkable, and they aren't really discussed in any depth.
The book also used the literary technique of flashbacks but it didn't work for the format. I would be reading and get really disoriented about the timeline. The book would have been much stronger if it had been written chronologically - if you could watch them fall in love, watch them face exceedingly difficult times and then watch the victory. As it was you'd watch them have a hard time, flash back to a better time, the flash forward to the victory. I don't think it worked.
The other thing I found unnatural was the dialogue and the interjection of hymn lyrics. The dialogue was unnatural and the hymn lyrics were hard to relate to. I can imagine that after everything she's been through she probably does just randomly start reciting hymn lyrics and singing, but it was like reading a musical. I found it incredibly difficult to relate to. It sounded like a platitude. Almost like, "You would think this would be difficult, but once I started singing this hymn it was all okay."
I am certain her spiritual maturity is infinitely beyond mine. I guess what I'm saying is that to me it didn't take me to the depths I wanted to go. I know what burnout is. I know what it's like to care for people who can't walk, to deal with sores and wounds and pneumonia and everything else. You simply can't understand it unless you've done it. The book described that, but it didn't take me deeply into the emotions of it.
I'm not saying it never does. There are a few times that they talk about moments that were absolutely raw and seemed very difficult, but they aren't until later in the book.
Basically the book breezes through their courtship and marriage for the first 30 something years, and then picks up when Ken feels emotionally distant, she's diagnosed with breast cancer and everything changes. I would have absolutely felt that whole experience differently if there had been more time and attention focused on their relationship - how they fell in love, what he saw in her, why he sacrificed so much, how he really felt early on, what he struggled with, what his thoughts were. It discusses a lot of that with relation to Joni, but as a caretaker, I could really relate to Ken. It does discuss his perspective some, but not in sufficient depth.
In any case, if you follow her and know a lot about her life and you're encouraged by hymn lyrics, you would almost certainly love this book. For those of us who aren't and maybe are caretakers of someone who isn't able bodied, the book was hard to relate to. I would have loved it if it was three times longer and focused a lot more on Ken.