Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: Lives on the Mend

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Lives on the Mend
        
Author: Florence Littauer

Author's web page: http://www.classervices.com/FlorenceLittauer.html

Author's newest book: Making the Blue Plate Special
        
Date: 1985
        
Publisher: Word Books
        
ISBN: 0-8499-0487-0
        
Length: 245 pages of text, 4 pages of endnotes
        
Quote: “Pain is a great leveler of people.”
        
When Florence Littauer started teaching Bible studies to ladies “who seemed to have their lives all together...many of them were quietly coming apart.” As she was asked to speak at retreats, “Lines formed outside my motel door as I tried to keep one woman from leavng her husband and another from killing herself.” And when she started training women as speakers, “I had assumed the women who came...would be trouble-free and ready to relieve the trouble-full, but I soon learned that everyone there had some knd of problem.”
        
Problems that seemed to be commonplace,even in “good church families,” included alcoholism, drug addiction,anxiety attacks, adultery, divorce, single parenting, family crises, teen depression, suicide, bereavement, physical pain, and emotional pains of the past. In addition, several Christians had been victims of crimes including actual or attempted rape, child abuse, and murder.
        
In this book, women from the “Christian Leaders And Speakers Seminars” share with readers the stories they told Mrs. Littauer and what they found most helpful. In an ideal world, stories of what helped others would not be used as cop-outs. Perhaps it would have been easier for Christians not to use any of the inspiring phrases in this book as a brush-off if the women had dared to share more details. Reality is that we are very unlikely ever to find or coin an inspirational phrase that anyone we may want to counsel hasn’t heard before. As Alcoholics Anonymous members know, clever clichés have their uses, but someone who desperately wants to get drunk again needs to be physically distracted. Likewise, people who’ve lost their homes need places to stay and replacements for clothes and whatever else they’ve lost, and people who are being abused at home need decent homes—not shelters—to escape to. 

The fact is that most of life’s difficult points involve money, and most people in difficult situations need money. Of course it’s better to offer them opportunities to earn money than to offer them handouts, and of course there may be times when it’s not just payments on luxuries we’d be happier without that make it hard to stretch each paycheque through the month, but the most important thing is that we never delude ourselves that we’ve been helpful when we offer someone a pious thought in place of the money the person needs. Or even when we offer the cash instead of the more complicated help in using it the person needs.
        
This book is recommended to anyone out there who may still have been able to believe that she (or he) was the only Christian in the church who’s had to deal with any of these problems. Or anyone who may have been thinking, “Having been molested by my stepbrother might have been sort of normal back in the ghetto, but nobody in a ‘nice’ neighborhood like this one would even want to understand.”
        
I really think that lack of attention to any family or emotional problem has not been a problem anyone my age has actually had. The generation before mine may have wondered where babies came from and had to dig through big intimidating medical books for information; my generation read all the essential information about where babies come from on the front page of the newspaper. In my grandparents’ time society may have frowned on self-disclosure; my generation have become the “shameless and open” self-disclosers popular psychologists used to think it would be interesting if we were, a real nationwide therapy group, and although we’re not noticeably happier for it, there is no psychosocial abnormality that’s not become fodder for daytime television.



However, as all of these stories focus on Christians whose faith has helped them through their difficulties, Lives on the Mend may be considered an inspirational Christian book, and either Christians or people trying to understand why people become Christians may even enjoy reading it. If you like short stories and prefer facts to fiction, this book is for you. 

As a Fair Trade Book, Lives on the Mend will cost $5, plus $5 for shipping, when ordered from salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com. (You pay only one shipping charge per package.) From this total of $10, Florence Littauer or a charity of her choice will receive $1.