Book Review · Cancer Journey

Weekend Book Reviews

The Young Traveler’s Gift

By: Andy Andrews

Genre: YAL

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

“I liked when he went to the future. It was cool went he met Abraham Lincoln.”

~Tyler

“Michael Holder met 7 people. He got a message at every at every stop. I liked that he went places, but I wish there was a little more action.”

~Austin

Being a fan of Andy Andrews, I was excited to see this book on the hospital’s library shelf and eager to begin reading it to my boys. We didn’t get very far into the book, when I thought, Uh-oh, this may have not been the best choice of books to read right now. First, we were sitting on the oncology floor of Children’s Hospital. Austin had just begun his first cycle of chemotherapy treatments. He wasn’t exactly happy to hear the word “cancer” when we read that the main character’s, Michael Holder, dad had lung cancer. But we kept reading. Before long, we encountered another hiccup.

Michael has been involved in some poor decision making and was now facing the consequences. With graduation, college and adulthood approaching, he began feeling pretty hopeless that he wouldn’t be able to make something of his future. Without leaving himself room for a second thought, Michael drives his car off the road. During his time of unconsciousness, he meets seven, primarily, historical characters. Each gives him another step, or lesson, in success. We got thrown by the first one: “The Buck Stops Here.” It was all about taking personal responsibility.

While I think this is a crucial step in growing character and building future successes, it wasn’t what my son needed to hear in that moment. He certainly did nothing to ask for or deserve his own cancer diagnosis and can do nothing in his power to change it. We paused and spent some time discussing this (and a better application to “The Buck Stops Here”).

Because Andrews is such a brilliant writer and because we were already interested in where Michael Holder would go next (or what would become of him), we kept reading. Overall, the book scored relatively high for all three of us. I intend to read more of Andrews’ books (including The Traveler’s Gift for grown-ups) and would have no problem recommending this book to others. It was intriguing and made several good points—I would only add a word of caution directed toward the life the circumstance during which you may find yourself reading.

Off Script

Off Script: What to Do When God Rewrites Your Life

By: Cary Schmidt

Genre: Christian Biography/Inspiration

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Only hours before I took in the first pages of this book, I had sat in a hospital room, having a very difficult conversation with my son’s doctor. During our question and answer session, we discussed expectations, future possibilities, burden and fear. It was one of those talks that ends in tears . . . and me alone in the room trying to process it all.

So, I have to admit, I was angry with this book at first. I felt bitterness bubbling just below the surface. My life is definitely “off script”—it doesn’t feel as though anything will ever be “normal” again. But Cary Schmidt was in his forties when his own life took a turn and he was diagnosed with cancer. He was married and already had children. My son may never get to graduate high school, I thought. Then came Schmidt’s follow-up testing, which revealed that his prognosis was good. More than likely, he would live. That’s great for him, but our follow-up testing didn’t produce such promising results. I contemplated whether I would finish the book and if I did, whether I would just be angrier when I came to the last page. It was difficult for me to hear his light-hearted approach at first. Like The Young Traveler’s Gift, he listed steps to deal with life circumstances to produce the best results—a deeper relationship with Christ and ultimately, God’s glory. The first step was “Love God, Trust God, Live for God.” I thought this must be eas[ier] for him when the outlook isn’t so bleak, but what about me? Could I have the attitude he talks about in chapter two—“Be of Good Cheer?”

Everything changed when I began reading “Cherish the Treasure of Darkness.” I paused and remembered those moments in the early days of Austin’s diagnosis, when I would sit by his hospital bed in the dark hours of the morning, pouring over God’s word and praying for him to spare my baby’s life. Those moments are precious to me—just me and God—some of the most intimate times in my walk with the Lord. I knew what Schmidt meant when he talked of the treasure inside the darkness. There is a gift to be found in the valley, and it is a gift for which I am very thankful.

As I read through the remaining chapters, I took comfort in someone who understand the lingo of a cancer patient. He knew the fears and pains (in fact, his physically suffering exceeding what we have faced up to this point) and joys (if you look for them). He knew the importance of church family, the gift of each day and the privilege to see God glorified in your own suffering. I am grateful that God gave Schmidt the gifting as a writer as well as the strength to write these words and share his story. As a mom of a child struggling with brain cancer, some of these words were hard for me to read, but some of these words I needed to read—and there may be others, especially those dealing with cancer or a sickness themselves, who need to read these words as well.

“Dear Lord, I love You. I understand that You have ordained this difficult time in my life. I don’t like it. I don’t understand it. I have a lot of questions. But in spite of all that . . . I thank You. Based purely upon the command of Your heart, I follow in obedience, and give thanks. Thank you for [this cancer journey]. Lord, I don’t feel grateful, I proclaim your thanks. I trust Your love, I embrace Your will, I claim Your grace. Thank You, Lord.”

Excerpt from Off Script, p. 99

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