(Review) Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances by Jonathan Daugherty

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Publisher and Publishing Date: New Growth Press. June 19, 2017. First published 2008.
Genre: Christian nonfiction, sexual addiction, pornography.
Pages: 133.
Source: Free copy from New Growth Press.
Rating: Good.

Link for more information at New Growth Press.
Link to read a sample chapter: Secrets.

Amazon

Litfuse Book Tour Landing Page

Jonathan Daugherty is the founder of Be Broken Ministries, and founder of Gateway to Freedom workshop for men. He also hosts the weekly radio broadcast, Pure Sex Radio, and is in demand nationally as a speaker on sexual purity and men’s issues. He has appeared on multiple radio and television media, both local and national. He has authored “Grace-Based Recovery,” “The 4 Pillars of Purity,” and other works. Jonathan lives with his wife and three children in San Antonio, Texas.
Find out more about Jonathan at http://www.jonathandaugherty.com.
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Summary provided by the publisher:
Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.
But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That’s what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.
After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.
But that’s not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.
Addiction doesn’t have the final say over Jonathan’s life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.
-A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
-A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
-Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
-Each chapter includes a “Living in the Light” section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
-Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.

My Thoughts:
It is always difficult for me to write a book review that is so deeply personal to me. I struggle with how transparent to be in sharing from my own life the similarities that I found in the book. Sexual addiction is not something I’ve struggled with. Pornography is not something I’ve struggled with. But these two issues have effected my life. I know first hand the ugly mess they make in a marriage and in relationships period. I could have passed over the opportunity to read this book. I could have chickened out and let the tour group know I can’t handle writing a review.  But, maybe I am just the person who needs to read and share my thoughts in a review?

The first thing I noticed about the book is it’s small. The content of the book is only 124 pages. Most of the people I know, both family and friends, are not big readers. A small book is an approachable book to a nonreader or a person who reads little. I consider this a positive point about this book. It is a book with a heavy story and topic, but it is approachable in size. It at least looks less scary.

Daugherty’s writing style is informal. To write with transparency about a difficult subject, how he became involved, and the consequences of involvement takes courage. The serious nature of the book could have become so stomach churning that a reader might need an Alka-Seltzer. So, there are moments when he is witty. These moments are needed, they bring relief.

What I liked best about the book is Daugherty is quick to accept blame. He is descriptive in regards to the spiraling downfall of the addiction. He explains how indulging in one thing led to a second thing, and the second thing led to a third, and so forth.

Daugherty points out sexual addiction is about escape. I believe addictions, no matter the addiction, is about escaping from a reality that the person can’t handle.
He explains how sexual addiction effects intimacy. The fantasy in the mind is more enticing than a real relationship.
He expresses how deceptive the addiction is to the person who tries so hard to cover their tracks. They don’t want anyone to know. He tried to present himself as a Christian man involved in church, and as a married man, but he was living a double life.

In the final chapters, he shared the recovery process. A first step in recovery is admitting the problem, followed by confession. Daugherty stresses the importance of brokenness and repentance over the sin.

What I disliked about the book is the ease of reconciliation between Daugherty and his wife. What I wanted to read about was the details (including long-term) of working through what happened to them. Daugherty explains in some part. I needed more of the mechanics of what the couple did in processing the different emotions and the work to heal. I did not hear from Mrs. Daugherty in this book. I do not know her story.

When a couple reconciles after adultery has been committed, trust is one of the strong elements that must be worked on. And trust is never a given, it must be earned through the entirety of marriage.

Forgiveness is necessary, but forgiveness does not mean reconciliation will happen. People think sometimes that reconciliation is an automatic response after forgiveness. I don’t believe that. I also believe it is easier to walk away from a broken marriage then stay and fix it. Adultery, betrayal, deception, and abuse are things that cannot be undone in this lifetime. They can be forgiven, but they are not forgotten. People work toward healing, but full healing will not be in this lifetime. A question to ask is if my husband and I are out eating dinner at a restaurant and we see the person who my husband committed adultery with, what will we do, and how will we feel? What if people at church and the job know about what happened? What if someone tells our children? For the offended and betrayed spouse, it is humiliating and horribly painful. Years and years from now people will still know and talk about the husband who betrayed, and the wife who chose to stay in the marriage. Marriage can heal and time helps, but the couple must understand it is a lifetime of work. Renewing the wedding vows is not the key. It is a symbol and a good start, but not the answer. Daugherty was quick to state, “God healed my marriage.” I am thankful he gave God the glory. I still wanted to see the mechanics of their marriage afterwards.

 

(Review) The Underground River by Martha Conway

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. June 20, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 345.
Source: Free copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Summary:
The year is 1838. May Bedloe, age 22, is a companion to her cousin, Comfort Vertue, who is an actress. May is the seamstress for Comfort. They are traveling by a steamship named the Moselle, when the boilers burst and exploded. The ship sank in the Ohio river. May, who is a strong swimmer, swam about a mile to the shore. After the accident, Comfort takes refuge and accepts a new career with a notable abolitionist. Comfort became a speaker for this movement. May takes a job with a theater group on a flatboat. The theater boat travels up and down the river between the border states. Those states on the south side are pro-slavery. May had accepted money from Mrs. Howard to begin a new life. Mrs. Howard is the new companion of Comfort. Later, Mrs. Howard wanted her money back. She clarified it was not a gift but a loan. May became apart of the abolitionist movement because she had to repay Mrs. Howard by performing certain deeds.

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to this story and loved it for several reasons:
1. A traveling theater boat.
2. The abolitionist movement.
3. May is a different kind of personality.
4. The time period is 23 years before the start of the Civil War.

When I think of a traveling theater boat I am reminded of the musical Show Boat The Underground River is not a light-hearted adaption of a serious time in American history. On the other hand, it touches a portion of the history of the Abolitionist movement.
May has a different kind of personality than I’ve come across in stories. If she were anymore serious I might find her tedious and boring. As the story progresses, her full personality is shown. I am left believing she is the larger than life character, and her cousin, the actress turned abolitionist speaker, is the insignificant and miniscule character. May and Comfort are the opposite of one another. The fullness of who they are became known when they go their separate ways. One of my favorite aspects of reading a story is watching the characters develop!

Many of the books I’ve read are just before, during, or post the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. I read this book several years ago. I assumed the abolitionist movement happened about this year. I have read a bit more on this and discovered it began in the early 1830s. The link to read more on this topic: A Brief History of the Abolitionist Movement.
Another favorite aspect of reading a story is how the author describes a scene or people. I noticed Conway made a point of bringing out the things about humans that many authors pass over. For example, one person in the story is described as having crooked teeth. Another character is noted as studying another character. Bringing these fine points out in a story shows human nature. By showing human nature, the story comes alive.

I had originally planned to give this book a very good rating. I’ve had time to re-consider the story and characters, and most of all how I feel about the book in the days after reading it. The book is memorable for me because of May. She is a uniquely crafted character. The story swirls around her without her knowing it. She is a counter-weight to the history of this era. She personifies all that people would hope to be.

 

(Review) High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

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Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction, World War I.
Pages: 393.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Summary:
Evelyn Marche is a nurse in German-occupied Brussels, Belgium during World War I. She lives with her mother. She has a brother and sister who are separated from the family because of the war. Evelyn, known as Eve in the story, works evenings in a café. She is also an agent for the resistance against Germany. When the story begins, her mission is to meet an agent who is bringing an important message. She is shocked to recognize the agent. She risks her life to secure the freedom of this important person.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story.
I was immediately captured by the character Eve. She is so many things that are important in a good character. For example, I understand her life through her thoughts and conversations. She is a person of principle and intellect. She is a dimensional character. I see her strengths and weaknesses. She is a character that I admire. She has painful memories and she has memories of joy. She carried the weight of the story through her resilience and strength. She is a believable character. She is not a perfect heroine and this is important.
I did not know until reading this story there was a resistance network during World War I. I am familiar with the resistance during World War II but not World War I. I felt Belgium was an interesting spot for the setting. Belgium was over-run  and damaged during World War II by the war. I did not know until reading this book its history during World War I.
I enjoyed reading the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. The history of the spy network is explained, the role of female spies, and the destruction of Belgium during this period.
A strong element of the story is there is a double agent. I did not know who the person was until it is revealed in the story.
Another strong element is the love story. The first thing I think about in the love story is the characters commitment. I could name other factors, but these two people have persevered despite the war.
Lastly, the story shows how civilians felt about and treated those who collaborated or did business with the Boche-Germans.

(Review) Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Memoir.
Pages: 368.
Source: Free copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and war correspondent. He covered the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia as a journalist. He has worked for Newsweek and The Miami Herald.

Summary:
Please Enjoy Your Happiness
is a memoir of a young man who was in a remarkable relationship with an older Japanese woman. The time period was 1959. The place was the port city of Yokosuka, Japan. He was in the U S Navy. She worked as a hostess in a bar. She noticed him sitting alone and reading. She loved poetry and this was the first step in their relationship. They had a kindred love of art and literature.

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is the young man. Kaji Yukiko was the Japanese woman. For Paul, this was a period in time where he had a life changing and memorable relationship. The relationship was brief. The story is a personal examination of that time. And, Paul states that this relationship has continued (for him) despite a separation of 58 years. Letters are included. In addition, the society and culture of Japan in 1959 is examined.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this book. I believe it is because of my age and life experiences. I am 53. I have found that as a person becomes older the past is examined closely. There is something about becoming older that makes a person reflect and process the life we’ve lived. Some people (including me) ponder things. We have a sensitive perspective. And then again, there are some people who do not examine the past. They live in the moment. Reflecting on the past is more than thinking about regrets. Other things are studied. For example, am I a mature person compared to who I was ten years ago? For Paul Brinkley-Rogers, this period in his life was tantamount; it was a pivotal point, that changed the course of life.

Several points to consider in this story:
1. Their relationship was brief. It did not continue and show the wear and tear of arguments, disagreements, and the everyday struggles of a couple.
2. They had an intimacy that many long-term couples never have. I want to mention that intimacy does not mean sex. Intimacy means two people who have a deep trust for one another. They have shared the real people behind the flesh.
3. Paul reflects back and understands so much more than he did at age 19-20. Don’t we all understand things a bit better when we are older?
4. Paul is thankful he has this good memory, because he also has painful memories. But, Kaji is his happy place. She is his delightful joy. I bet there are people who have had many relationships who cannot say they had a deep relationship like Paul and Kaji?

I believe some readers will not “get” this story. In order to understand Paul’s memoir, a little life needs to have been lived. Notice I said life and not age. Some people have had heavy life experiences when they are still young.

I loved this story for several reasons:
1. Paul Brinkley-Rogers unpacks his suitcase so to speak, about a great love during his youth. It is interesting to read about the progressing relationship, as well as his mature reflections on this period.
2. I have clarity about Japan’s culture and society post World War II.
3. I have clarity about Japanese women post World War II.
4. I loved reading about two people who by chance meet, and the relationship changes their lives.
5. An additional tweak to the story is Paul was born in England. His perspective on America brought a different viewpoint. Especially in reference to racism.
6. The letters that are included from Kaji are important. I was able to hear her voice.

(Review) The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

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Publisher and Publication Date: Harcourt Brace. 1982.
Genre: Fiction. Short Stories.
Pages: 648.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

I’d had this weighty book in my to be read pile for a few years. I’d started and then became distracted by other books. I became determined to finish this book in 2017 and the goal was met.

Several years ago I took a writing class. The teacher exclaimed that not all writers can write short stories. It takes a certain style and talent to pull off a story in a few pages. I did not fully understand this comment until I read, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. While reading this collection of short stories, I studied Welty’s style. She packs a punch in the first sentence or paragraph. She does not wait for a later moment to begin the crescendo for storytelling. I noticed an even pace to all the stories. They are not rushed. They are not too slow. They have a steady rhythm. I wondered if she listened to a metronome while she was writing (just kidding.) The characters bloom at the start of the story. The characters are important to the overall story. The characters are not props or fill-ins to add something that is truly unneeded. Lastly, the stories have meaning. They have a message to pass to the reader.

A total of 41 stories are included. The stories have dates written between 1941 and 1966.

The stories show a view of society and culture of the south. This is the period of time just before the civil rights era. The last two chapters were written with Medgar Evers, and a violence during a demonstration in mind.

The stories include a strained mother and daughter relationship, people at a train station, Mrs. Larkin and her garden, and a couple who meet in New Orleans.

My favorite story is No Place For You, My Love.  The setting is a Sunday afternoon in summer. The place is New Orleans, Louisiana. A couple see each other at a luncheon party. He invites her to take a drive south, away from New Orleans. A drive just to see how far the road takes them. They spend the day together. The day is hot and sticky. I wondered if the insects are accompanying them like an invading army or maybe they are being chaperoned? I have read this story twice. I read it a second time to see if I missed anything and I had. Welty uses the two characters voices, including their thoughts, and she pans out away from them and tells the story herself. He sees something in the woman. He has been observing her dress, hat, hair, mannerisms. Their drive down south was a sightseeing experience. From a large perspective of what they see to a smaller detailed view. Emphasis is made to the sun, heat, wind, insects, speed of the car, preconceived thoughts, the road itself, and the lone bar at the end of the road. My favorite lines from the entire book are in this story.

A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told-returned to the world it came out of. For their different reasons, he thought, neither of them would tell this (unless something was dragged out of them): that, strangers, they had ridden down into a strange land together and were getting safely back-by a slight margin, perhaps, but margin enough. Page 480.

I loved this story. Two people, strangers who by chance spend the day together. They were lonely people. They connected. In later years, probably neither one of them told a soul about this memorable day. It is not that I look at this story as romantic and worthy of a heavy sigh. I believe it is a memorable story, because it is filled with the reality of humanity. Despite living in a populated world, some people are still lonely, and they reach out hoping someone will fill that empty spot.