July 5th I tweeted, “Best welcome home greeting. ARC copy of Stained by @CherylRainfield I’m jumping up & down with joy. Putting all others away #summerreading”, and I read with barely a pause. As I finished the book I did so holding my breath. There was no way I was going to be able to write a review.
The protagonist, Sarah Meadows, felt too personal. She felt too real, and honestly that scared me a little. So I sat on my copy of Stained and waited for the rawness of Sarah’s experience to evaporate. I wanted to write an objective review. Unfortunately the struggles, fears, and eventual victory I felt along with Sarah as she grew from an obsessively self-conscious teen to a confident young lady would not abate.
In Stained author Cheryl Rainfield uses a port-wine stain covering half of the face of a teenager to represent the feelings of inadequacy many of us experience. Not every person with what society considers a blemish hates that which was given at birth, but many people suffer from the perception of blemishes that only matter within their own mind’s eye. Rainfield captures the feelings of the latter type perfectly.
Plus in true Rainfield style she validates the abused and gives them a flawed survivor in Sarah Meadows. She shows us that even if you’re scared, or imperfect, or ready to give up you can still be your own hero. That validation of being a survivor and honoring all your flaws proved to be the scary aspect of the story to review.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for every book Rainfield writes because she knows the heart of a survivor. Her stories provide the bibliotherapeutic opportunities that many authors cannot produce and many readers desperately need. However, this honest voice of courage through adversity can be frightening because it forces survivors and those fortunate enough not to have faced a similar situation to examine themselves. Am I strong enough to overcome abuse, bullying, self-hate, trust issues, etc? In Sarah Meadows we learn yes we can be that strong. We can be our own hero.
Yesterday I regretfully wasn’t able to find the time to post even a quick thank you to my husband’s grandfather. It turned out to be a day of trying to catch up on other writings, working at my fabulous part time job, and spending time the family. I am so thankful to be able to enjoy all of these activities, but most importantly I am thankful that I am not required to get approval for the things that I enjoy.
Part of the reason I get to enjoy the blessings and yes even the banes in my life are due to men and women like my husband’s grandfather, the man depicted in the picture above. His name was Carl and he was stationed in Pearl Harbor in 1941, it was the day we now often hear as being a “date which will live in infamy”. However unlike the other sailors posted at Pearl Harbor on that day, my grandfather-in-law was one of the lucky ones. This is because he was actually on leave and enjoying the first few days of his new marriage when the attack occurred. He was immediately called back to Pearl Harbor to help with the clean up. What he faced was awful.
We chatted a couple of time about the days that followed the attack. He recounted the banging on the haul of overturned ships and how the banging slowly died out as the hours and days passed and how hose standing above tried in vain to cut through the hauls to rescue their fellow sailors. He told about feeling helpless and guilty. He explained that he wished with all his heart for the ability to tear the haul with his bear hands. How could a man stand on the belly of a ship listening to the last dying pings of his friends and not feel guilty?
He also spoke of the clean up effort and what looked like a sea of bodies floating in the harbor. During his telling of that day he quietly explained that he has not been able to eat crabs since 1941. When I explained that I didn’t understand, he simply stated that crabs are meat eating creatures. I believe my silence was enough confirmation of a dreadful comprehension. It is beyond the imagination to visualize a truthful depiction of what it must have looked and felt like to watch fellow sailors and friends floating, sinking, bleeding, and being consumed by the ocean. How awful.
So on this day, 71 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, I am thankful for the courage it took men like Carl to step up and serve his country. I am thankful for every little effort that was made to rescue fellow warriors. It causes me to pause and wonder if I have done enough to serve and honor our past and current warriors. It makes me wonder if any of us can ever do enough.