Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: LIMITLESS

It might seem ironical that a book written by a man born without arms and legs should call itself Limitless. But limitless is not an attribute that Nick is claiming for himself. When he uses the word, Limitless, he is referring to the power and love of God.

Nick’s faith is uncommonly strong. To understand the faith that he has described in the 50 devotionals set out in the book, you have to understand Nick’s life and the difficulties he has faced. You have to learn of his struggles with ordinary life, his feelings of inadequacy and his depression and desire to end it all. It is these difficulties that help you appreciate the turnaround that happened in his life when he allowed God to work in it.

Today his life is a powerful testimony to how God can take the most inadequate things and fill them with His grace. Filled with God’s power, Nick now describes himself as enabled, rather than disabled. More than that, he sees himself as “God-is-abled.”

Each devotional begins with a verse from the Bible, mostly from the Psalms, then moves on to a personal devotional drawn from his own experience, and ends with an affirmation of positivity, a resolution not to let negativity get in the way. To look forward with cheer and hope and to counter the challenges that life throws up. The third section is where he talks directly to the reader.

Nick reminds us to have hope, to do something fun and ridiculous to encourage our youthful spirits, and to remember to laugh at ourselves. He tells us of how he once rode the baggage carousel at the airport. Just because. To the horrified, shocked and amused looks of his fellow-passengers. It is a reminder not to take life too seriously.

The book draws heavily on material drawn from two of his other books, Life without limits and Unstoppable. Through the devotionals, he tells us of the time when he wished he were dead. He was just 10 years old then and he agonised over the fact that he would never ever be able to feed himself or cross the road unattended or play sports like other boys. When he grew to be a teenager, another ‘would never’ was added to that long list. He would never be able to have a wife and children.

It’s hard not to be moved by Nick’s experience. I know how often I have felt completely miserable and dejected when things didn’t go the way I wished they would. As I read through Nick’s Limitless, I realize just how better off I was and how much I had to be grateful for. And yet Nick finds time to acknowledge the pain of others, hardships and abuse that he has fortunately never had to battle with. And he repeatedly thanks his parents, brother and sister, and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins who’ve treated him with love, respect and affection.

It takes Nick, a man who has gone through more than the regular share of disappointments and heartaches to tell us that we are special. That we are “God’s creation designed according to His plan.

Despite missing “a few bits and pieces,” as his mother put it, he does not wallow in self-pity and warns us against the inadequacies that people like us who come with all body parts intact like to cherish.

Through it all, Nick admits that he has had a ridiculously good life, and reminds us that we can have one too if we only remember to surrender our lives to God and allow Him to be the hands and legs we don’t have.

I received a copy of Limitless - Devotionals For A Ridiculously Good Life for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Book: Whisper of the Worms
Author: Marcardian
Pages: 317

Growing up, my mother would always tell me that a bank job was one of the two best things I could choose for myself (the other being a teacher’s job). Having read The Whisper of the Worms, I am not so sure.

Thobias Mathai, suffering from lung cancer, is told by his doctor that he only has one more year left to live. He decides to return to his home in his home country and meet the mother he has not seen in 20 years. At the airport, on returning, his passport is confiscated and he is informed that he is under investigation for a crime he committed in Smile Bank, where he worked before leaving for the US.

The course of the investigation runs concurrently with Thobias’ flashbacks about his years at Smile Bank, when he struggled to do his work as well as he could, even though the odds were horribly stacked against him. The extent to which the system is messed up is what we come to see as poor Thobias makes a desperate attempt to clear his name and to figure out just what he is accused of. He knows that he will die soon and will be spared the punishment they will mete out to him, but he is unwilling to subject his family to disgrace.

Gradually he becomes aware that he is being accused of frauds that he had brought to the notice of his superiors, but that far from taking action against the real perpetrator, the bank had heaped him with more work and more responsibilities with the bonus of an increment denied thrown in. Eventually, the whistle-blower was held the culprit while the guilty and his accomplices were shielded and paid off.

Thobias, disappointed with the system at work in the bank, resigns, blissfully unaware that he has been made the fall guy.

The sensibilities are right and the author does a great job of recreating village life. Through the writing and the characters, one gets a taste of the author’s philosophy and world view, and the glimpse is admirable. The narrative is interspersed liberally with reminiscences befitting a man who is counting down to his death. These reminiscences are well introduced and enable you to get a deeper sense of the characters and the milieu.

The flashbacks are introduced at just the right moments. Their beauty lies in the fact that while not all of them might take the story forward, they always succeed in throwing light on the character of Thobias himself.

The fictional nation of Marcardia in which the story is set bears a close resemblance to the worst that ails our own country. Like us, the Marcardians adjust their idea of happiness to suit any reduction in the degree of misfortune. The paragraphs which highlight the average Marcardian’s concept of happiness are superb.

The characters are a brilliant exercise in sarcasm. Pannaverse, a senior union leader, bends down to shake hands but his body does not return to its original position at once. Also, because he bares them so often, his teeth have taken over while his lips are nearing extinction.

Smile Bank is so powerful that it becomes a character unto itself. Here managers and those in power imagine halos around their own heads. With a Smiling Donkey as its logo, the bank believes in treating people like donkeys in order to improve their performance.

Characters like Velevendran, Kusagran, Mehman make us feel a mortifying sense of indignation at the indignities that are heaped upon Thobias, just because he won't get asinised for their benefit. The only weapons that Thobias has are his honesty and his sarcasm.

The author also succeeds in describing what the process of asinisation (rejoice, fellow donkeys, we now have a name for the ailment that we see all around us) is all about. Through one of Thobias’ reminiscences, we come to know of the hens in the poultry farm who learn to eat and drink only while sitting, and gradually forget to stand up or walk, just like the ‘asinised’ employees in Smile Bank.

Velevendran’s description of how hardworking donkeys are never offered a carrot but are lured on to work harder by a carrot dangling in front of their noses would have been funny if that sort of thing didn’t happen to us too often.

Thobias, the quintessential donkey, never does fit in. He is too honest, outspoken and hardworking, unwilling to scratch backs or give praise where it is not due. He never realises that he must temper his words to suit the moods of his superiors. Nor does he ever catch sight of the invisible halos around the heads of the great and powerful at Smile Bank. 

With qualities such as these, he is doomed to remain a donkey always. During a meeting, when the principal manager informs the gathering that from then on, merit would be the criteria for promotions, Thobias wants to know if merit wasn't the criteria earlier.

Thobias' condition is pitiable and I longed to see him released from the cesspool of idiots, fraudsters and schemers in which he found himself. 
No matter what the sphere, in banking, corporate life or politics, the system is designed such that only those who are asinised do well, and Thobias prays to God to ensure that he is fully asinised. But God has other plans.

The language that the characters speak is real. I was sure this was based on a real case somewhere. The author manages to recreate the linguistic inflections and dialects of a people for whom English is the second or third language. In this world, the masters of the donkeys enjoy mouthing high-sounding platitudes. Sample this: Velevendran says, “Just because a truth is truth, it need not become a truth until it is announced by the concerned authority.

The narrative gives us an interesting peek into the rural life of the Kerala counterpart of Marcardia where hens and chickens roam free and paddy fields sparkle with the pending harvest.

It was halfway through the book that I realised that I really liked Thobias and sympathised with him even though I had no idea what he looked like. The author has refrained from giving him a physical description, making him a kind of Everyman that could just as easily be one of us. Only one facet of his appearance is revealed almost unthinkingly in the flashback relating to the warts on his fair skin.

Whisper of the Worms is a tale that seems deceptively simple at the beginning. But as you turn the pages, you become aware of the genius of the mind that penned this onioned allegory that can be understood at so many levels. I particularly liked the way the book ended, justifying the title and the premise of the work for added effect.

I wish the author had emblazoned his name on the cover of the book, instead of putting the name, Marcardian, on it. It certainly is a work to be proud of.

Then again, perhaps he feared retribution from Smile Bank.

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on http://thetalespensieve.com/reviewers-sign-up/">The Tales Pensieve

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A whiff of memories

I stand at the kitchen counter, looking at various bowls filled with partially used flour, sugar and butter, and bottles of baking soda and baking powder. La Niña, my daughter, in whose presence every instance of mundane cooking or baking is transformed into an episode of La Niña ka tadka, watches expectantly and excitedly. She knows that she and I are continuing a tradition that began in my childhood home with my mother’s jugaad oven.

The timer beeps and I switch off the mains and, with mittened hands, pull out the cake pan from the oven.

And just like that, my childhood comes rushing in.

And I recall my Mum’s kitchen. Growing up, we had a very small house. So small that when we visited someone, I would try to imagine just how many times our home would fit into their house. Twice? Five times? Six times with two bathrooms to spare?

Understandably, the kitchen occupied a negligible corner of that small house. And yet, within that small space, my mother used to conjure up treats and every day meals almost as if by magic. Our kitchen had no window, and since we had only one gas cylinder at that time, it was the pumping of the old Primus stove until the cylinder was replenished. In spite of the sweltering heat in the kitchen, Mum would cook those meals with a smile, seeing them as a labour of love for her family.

I remember the sorpotels (non-vegetarians may continue reading, no gory details here) that were a staple of our Christmas and Easter celebrations. Mum would grind the red chillies, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cumin, peppercorns and turmeric using the stone mortar and pestle, referred to as paata in some Indian languages. She would wet the whole mixture with vinegar. As soon as she uncorked the bottle of vinegar, it would be like someone pressed a button somewhere deep within me. My mouth would start watering and I would begin to feel hungry.

Of course, vinegar is known to have that kind of an effect on the taste buds. But it wasn’t just that. Mum could create that kind of magic even with the most basic of dishes. She could make the tang and piquancy of each ingredient stand up so sharply that M, my younger brother, would be able to tell just what had been cooked that day when he was as far as a hundred feet away from the front door – guided by his nose alone. 

I admired him for this skill. I was rather nose-deaf (my contribution to the English language) when it came to guessing ingredients by smell alone. I can, of course, recall the peculiar odour of each ingredient when it is raw. But mix them together and I would be hopelessly lost.

Thanks to these aromas, we could literally smell Mum's presence in our home, and we would know instantly when she was away. Strange how the vanishing of a smell could bring gloom.

But other than the smells generated in the kitchen, there was the unique, motherly smell that was her own. It consisted not only of the perfume she wore on important occasions. It was also the distinctive smell of her, comprising a mixture of sweat and soap, of hard work and hope.

Dad, our original Mr Fix-it, had an individual smell too. It consisted of spirit and Fevicol and Araldite, his tools-in-trade for the numerous fixing jobs he did around the house. Whether the tap in the kitchen gave up the ghost or the radio-cum-tape recorder breathed its last, whether my doll's nose came unstuck or whether an Algebra problem defied my comprehension, he was at hand. 

Fixing. Mending. Repairing.

For all my childhood, we never ever had to call a plumber, carpenter or any kind of handyman for any job. There was no problem that Dad couldn't solve, something that remains true to the day, and the smells of the material he used to make things good again were proof of the same.

During the summer vacations, we would play outside the house and not return home until it got dark and Mum had called us back for the third time. Then we would return home, my brothers and I, all sweaty and smelly. We'd be smelling dirty, and yet we would be blissfully happy, the joy of having run around and shouted ourselves hoarse, the delight of unrestrained play.

After a bath, it was the carbolic smell of Lifebuoy that I would revel in. Even though we must have bought that soap no more than three or four times, I could recall the smell so strongly. It would always make me feel fresh and healthy.

Babies also have their own smells, something I discovered when M was born. That smell was more than Johnson's Baby Powder. It was pure, sweet, innocent. The smell of God's willingness to give the world one more chance.

As a mother, I discovered that exclusively breastfed babies can bless their mothers with an unexpected bonus. Pee and poop that do not smell offensive.

Very early in life, I discovered that inanimate objects also had their own distinctive odours.

Mum used to store the items from her trousseau in a special package, with numerous naphthalene balls for protection and an old unopened pack of some foreign soap (I think it was Camay) somewhere in the package. There would be embroidered bed sheets and pillow cases, table cloths with exquisite applique work, cross-stitched pillow cases, and crocheted doilies, table cloths and place mats. They were all things that she had made herself. Every time she bared that treasure trove, I would be entranced and completely consumed by the task of admiring the beauties within. That smell was special to both of us.

I would drink in that smell, and with that action, I would imagine that I was imbibing more than just that part-musty, part-fragrant smell. I would see myself as partaking in the joy of a young bride-to-be as she painstakingly made and put together the bricks of her life with the man she loved.

Books too had their own smells. Of course, books are not, strictly speaking, inanimate objects. My older brother and I used to smell books. We used to dig our noses into them and inhale deeply. We would make the words and thoughts expressed within those pages, the ideas and the ink, a part of our own sensibilities and sensitivities.

We would breathe in that sometimes musty, sometimes fresh off the printing press smell and make it a part of our system, our being, then slowly breathe out to make room for more. Then brace ourselves to breathe in that scent again.

I wish there was a way to bottle up those fragrances. I’m no fan of Christian Dior and his ilk, but if someone found a way to bottle up those fragrances, I’d buy a lifetime’s supply at once.

But there were some odours that were so horrible, I wished there was a way to do away with them. These included the smell of rotting garbage, on days when the jamaadar didn't come. Then we would have to wrap up the garbage bag and take it to the neighbourhood municipal bin. There was no Ambipur in those days to help us wish malodours away.

Another odour that terrified me was that of cooking gas. In those days, Doordarshan, our only TV channel, aired many public service ads about what to do and what not to do in the event of a gas leak around the home. It was then that I learned that cooking gas has no odour of its own. And that the peculiar odour of cooking gas that we smell, something like a mix between rotten eggs and dirty socks, is added to give consumers a warning in the event of any leakage.

There are many of these smells that I haven't smelled in ages. I can barely describe them any more. And yet, sometimes they creep up on me, as silently as a thief in the night, and before I know it, I am wallowing in the memory, luxuriating in nostalgia.

La Niña returns to find me still standing by the kitchen counter, a happy smile on my face. I give in to her entreaties and cut a huge slice of the cake for her. She beams at me and picks up the piece. She takes it to her mouth and is about to bite into it when she stops short. She lifts it up to her nose, and gently inhales the aroma of freshness, sweetness and her mother's love.

And just like that another memory is born, on the strength of a whiff.

This post is a response to the contest, Smelly to Smiley, run by Ambi Pur, in association with Indiblogger.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Roma, mi Roma

Rome has always been on my list of things to do before I die. There is something about Italy, specially Rome, that calls to me.

I try to rationalise. I tell myself there is so much of history in its streets, so much of art in its museums and art galleries, so much promise of adventure. But it isn’t just that. After all the rest of the world also has its fair share of things to see and do. Then why does Rome call to me?

I don’t know. It just does.

In the days when the Husband was trying desperately to woo me, he had, on getting to know of my desire to see Italy, magnanimously declared that he would take me to Rome someday. Excited at the possibility of love, and dizzy at the thought of ticking off a significant goal from my bucket list, I thrilled to his words.

And yet six years and two kids later, Italy remains as distant a dream as it has always been.

A mere palm away from India on the political map of the world, as seen in the much-thumbed copy of the Atlas that I had inherited from my older brother, I liked to think that there was something very symbolic in the span of a palm that separated me from my dream destination. It’s all in our hands, they say, don’t they?

And yet I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in the routines of corporate life and domesticity so much that Italy has almost receded from my horizon. And it is with an effort and a wistful look at my own bucket list that I am able to relive the excitement and the finality that prompted me to put it down on paper in the first place.

A dream delayed is a dream denied, I’ve heard it said. I hope it is only a dream deferred.

They also say that a dream shared is a dream that has a better shot at coming alive. I intend to share this dream with my children. Could there be a better way of drumming up enthusiasm? I will share my enthusiasm for Rome with them with prodigal liberality. And the Husband, an avid photographer, will learn to love that beautiful city through his camera.

This is what we shall do when we finally get an opportunity to say, Ciao, Roma.

I am not, of course, going to bore you with the details of the flight and other related issues. That’s what Yatra is for.

Having checked into the hotel, we will keep our valuables safe in the hotel safe deposit locker. Rome does have a reputation for being infested with thieves.

Schedules and itineraries are a great help on most guided tours and packed vacations, but I don’t see them as being of much help on the streets of Rome where every cobbled street and piazza might beckon us to stop what we are doing and explore them.

We’d brace ourselves for walking. As far as possible.

We’d visit the Coliseum at Rome, and sense the crowds that shouted themselves hoarse on its bleachers all those centuries ago. That massive arena would take our breath away and we would marvel at the sheer audacity that drove the construction of this great structure. And find our voices shushed at the memory of the violence that it witnessed in its heydays when men fought each other in gladiatorial contests or faced wild, hungry animals for the pleasure of some murderous spectators.

We’d make sure to catch the Galleria Borghese, considered the best museum in Rome. Located in a 17th century villa, this museum is a must-see for the wealth of artifacts it houses. The collections encompass a range that includes antiquities, the Renaissance and the beginnings of baroque art.

The Piazza Navone is where one can literally sit down and watch the world go by and still end up feeling totally enriched by the experience. This area, surrounded by baroque palaces, lots of pavement cafes, huge fountains, and the crowds and hawkers that will guarantee that I don’t miss home, is supposedly Rome’s most iconic public square. 

Built on the ruins of an ancient arena, the site is home to three fountains including the biggest, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, which depicts personificaitns of the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate rivers.

When hunger gnaws at us, after we worked up an appetite walking along the streets of Rome (and walking is the best way to see this city) we’d satisfy ourselves eating, no marks for guessing, authentic pizza and pasta. And along the way, upon some corner, we’d find a bakery that would entice us with the sight of its freshly baked breads and cakes and by the aroma. And we’d eat chocolates and ice creams by the tubful.

The Campo De’ Fiori would also be an important sight on our agenda. This famous market is known to morph into a raucous open-air pub at night. On second thoughts, better not. Not with La Nina and El Nino.

But we would certainly head towards the Spanish Steps, 138 in number, which are supposedly the best place to sit and watch the world go by. Together they make up the widest staircase in Europe, and that alone makes it worth a dekko in my book. Remember “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?” There are some amazing frescoes to be seen around here.

As a Catholic, I would definitely want to see the Vatican Museums. This 5.5 hectare complex consists of two palaces which are joined by two long galleries. We had better pack good walking shoes. We’re going to need them.

We’ll need to spend a few days in St Peter’s Basilica to be able to do justice to it all. And of course, the Sistine Chapel where I shall see Michaelangelo’s work for the very first time. So much of Rome’s architecture would require us to gape open-mouthed, our jaws dropping in sheer awe at the sight of all the finest that man’s ingenuity could be capable of creating.

We shall visit the Pantheon, once a temple, now a church. It is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments. The very word, pantheon, has entered the English language as a synonym for all the gods. So that should serve as an indication of the magnificence of this temple. After all, the ancient Romans built it for all their gods.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So we will find time to amble around the many antique markets that dot this great city. If we’re lucky, we might find something that suits our taste and budget.

And of course, even though the Husband will probably want to bop me over the head for roping him into this, and the children will be bored out of their wits, I shall grab for us all the experience of watching a real, live Italian opera.

Before returning home, before saying, “Arrivederci, Roma,” we’d close our eyes and stand at the Trevi Fountain with our back towards it, and we would toss a coin into the fountain, an act which legend decrees will help ensure our return to Rome.

For return, we must. The best part about Rome is that, like the greatest cities, it has so much to offer that a hundred guide books couldn’t quite contain. And so we must make multiple visits to this city of which Mark Twain once said, “The Creator made it from designs made by Michaelangelo.”

The Artisans' Champion

The work of their hands was once an intrinsic part of our heritage and tradition. Their handiwork enriched the fabric of our culture and made it a tapestry, at once complex, colourful and vibrant. Trade routes to and from India bustled with activity in ancient times, a success to which their forefathers contributed no mean part. 

But things are different now.

The artisan, once feted by royalty, languishes in poverty, forced to watch his nation whiz by at a breathtaking speed, leaving him far behind. The India of today has no time or attention to devote to the glories and treasures of the past. Caught in the confines of faster, quicker, cheaper, it fails to appreciate the world of ancient Indian arts and crafts whose creation involved a laborious process to which the labourer gave his all.

While there are a few NGOs and the odd corporate that is striving to revive and rejuvenate India’s ancient crafts and traditions, the efforts are nothing in the face of the massive need. While most of us would limit our charitableness to the writing of a rare cheque, and the giving away of an old wardrobe, Neha Gandhi, a Mumbai-based artist, conceived of a means to restore dignity to the artisans by finding them a market and helping them get the right price for their labour.

It all started during the earthquake that hit the Kutch region of Gujarat in 2001. Neha had volunteered with the Behavioural Science Centre, an Ahmedabad based NGO, to assist the relief effort. During her time there, she was struck by the wealth of handicrafts that she saw around and the unfortunate conditions of the creators of that priceless art. It was also the time when she came to know of the other side of public patronage, the one that is characterised by the greed of the middleman, unfair working conditions and earnings that could be best described as too little-too late.

Over the years, the graduate of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the prestigious Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai, has donned a number of hats, including one as faculty at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. She could have chosen to live life as a well known designer. But the conditions of the artisans appealed to her sensitive nature and she decided to do something to make them better.

And so Matsya, Sanskrit for fish, was born in 2009. Determined to resuscitate rural arts and crafts in a manner that was ethical and served to give the labourers their just wages, Neha founded Matsya Crafts. Her initial investment was Rs 10,000 from her own savings. But beyond that meager amount, Neha was willing to put on the line her potentially successful career in the art scene in Mumbai.

Her enthusiasm for the cause was infectious and while she worked alone, unable to even afford the services of a peon, she was able to appeal, from time to time, to marketers and design enthusiasts with whose support she walked on. With every little success, she walked closer towards her goal of helping to connect the rural artisan with the discerning urban customer whose surplus disposable income enabled him/her to be a connoisseur of art.

Today Matsya works with nearly 2000 women in 112 villages, helping them to earn their livelihood without losing sight of the tradition that they have inherited over the ages. The women display their talents in embroidery, appliqué work, painting, sewing etc. These arts were once honoured by the royalty and found their place in the wardrobes of the nobility. And yet in recent times, their talents have barely enabled them to keep body and soul together.

Products such as home furnishings, studio pottery, the tribal wall art range, fridge magnets, finger puppets, pencil tops, embroidered bags and jholas, leather, copper art and other accessories, including a wide range of gift items, all designed to be of high utility value while being attractive and contemporary, were made available online. Ethnic is ‘in’, and Matsya’s founder had the foresight to see that in popularising ancient Indian arts and crafts, she would be able to help the impoverished artisans in ways that did not insult their dignity.

Matsya is much more than an online marketplace. By pushing ahead the boundaries of the marketplace, Matsya also offers to re-design hotels, homes and corporate offices, to develop and design products, and to assist other groups that wish to work with artisans. Neha’s organisation undertakes craft documentation, in an effort to keep the history and tradition alive. Currently, it is working towards gaining Fair Trade certification.

If Matsya’s aim were merely to introduce the buyer to the maker, it would have run its course soon enough. The organisation has tried to enhance the skills of the artisans through training programmes, designed to teach them modern production standards and contemporary design aesthetics. The idea is to create within the artisans a level of confidence that will equip them for the task of reclaiming their destiny.

Matsya also conducts craft tours for individuals and groups, enabling discerning travelers to talk to India’s traditional craftsmen and see the often humble environs in which great art takes shape. These tours, customised to the travellers’ interests and budgets, have so far been conducted only in Gujarat, but there are plans to take it further to Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Neha has the satisfaction of knowing that her efforts and her fledgling enterprise have made such a difference to the lives of so many women, and their families. While much has been achieved, much more remains to be done.

The young entrepreneur knows that there are others waiting out there, unsung and unappreciated, who could benefit from her unceasing efforts to be the bridge between them and their potential customers.

For the nearly 23 million artisans in India, these efforts spell the difference between the complete extinction of their traditions and their empowerment as skilled and talented artisans whose work regains its significance in the fabric of India’s culture.

Written for the Indiblogeshwaris Ladies Independence Special Contest in association with http://womenentrepreneursinindia.com/

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Title: Angels in the Fire
Author: Dann Stadler
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Pages: 208

Angels in the Fire: The Dramatic True Story of an Impossible Rescue by Dann Stadler is the story of the author and his wife, Tracey, specifically of the horrific accident that struck them on the night of September 7, 1989, as a result of a head-on collision with a drunk driver who was driving at 75 miles per hour in the wrong lane. It was their fourth wedding anniversary and they were returning home from dinner to Tracey's parents' house where they were then vacationing.

The novel begins in the present tense, in the third person, describing the events that led to the collision. 
The crash causes the cars to char, killing the drunk driver on the spot, but Dann and Tracey miraculously survive. The high-speed impact leaves behind twisted metal, and results in both the Stadlers becoming a wreck of their former selves.

When fire extinguishers could not douse the fire, and it grew in intensity every second, some people made an almost superhuman but unsuccessful attempt to break the door down and rescue the couple while a man dropped down to his knees in prayer and supplication.

And then suddenly in front of everyone's stupefied gaze, a lone figure emerged from the woods and reached the car. Tracey's spirit recognised the figure as Jesus, her Saviour, even as her lifeless body was taken out of the car that no one could open just moments earlier.

While Dann's body caught fire, everything from the bumper in crashed on Tracey's lower body, leaving her with sixteen fractures between her pelvis and knee alone. They ended up staying in hospital for more than four-and-a-half months, undergoing numerous surgeries and skin grafts in an attempt to repair the damage. 

Medical experts warned them that life would always be a struggle, in which they would be largely dependent on others even for small routine tasks, and that they would never be able to have another baby. At the time of the crash, the Stadlers were parents to nine-month-old Meghan.

Contrary to these dire predictions, both Dann and Tracey went on to live a normal life as far as possible, including taking up their jobs without any respite in their responsibilities. They also went on to become parents for the second time to Rebekah and later adopted a third child, a baby girl, who they named Emma.

Interestingly, the last thing that Dann remembered telling Tracey before the crash occurred was to keep her seat belt on. 
In many ways, Tracey's faith works as a safety belt for the couple, helping them to survive and thrive in spite of all indications to the contrary. 

The book is a remarkable testimony to the fact that when God tests us with difficulties, He always tempers those difficulties with His steady love and grace. The account is also a reminder that God's angels are always with us, and that they guard and guide us, and watch over us as we go through life.

Besides these angels, Stadler also thanks the many real angels that helped them with their support and presence. These angels included his own parents and Tracey's too. Tracey's father takes up the task of looking after little Meghan while her parents are in the hospital.

While it seems incredible that anyone could still be alive after having been through such a terrible accident, the fact that the Stadlers are alive is proof that miracles happen and that when the going gets tough, faith is all that is required to live life well.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I read it on Netgalley.


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