Let me begin by saying, Kelle has produced a very aesthetically pleasing book filled with many of her beautiful photographs. Her writing style stays true to her blog, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your own preferences. And while it is not the genre I tend to be drawn to, it definitely resonates with the larger population of Mommas who read it. She has written out her story beautifully, a story which a lot of people find themselves in. But note, I am not going to try and push aside my feelings towards Kelle in my review of this book. I read it with all of my own preconceptions from the journey we have had together for the last two years whether she is aware of it or not (which I am pretty sure she is not, as I have never met her nor conversed with her).
I remember the first time someone sent me the link to her blog. Ella was already 8 or 9 months and I too had blogged my journey. So when I read her story, I hesitated before adding to over a thousand comments to welcome her to the DS family. But I did. Because, just in case she read it, I wanted her to know it was going to be okay. If I had known her feelings towards "support" at the time, I probably wouldn't have offered a hand but I did and I put a link to my blog to say you're not alone. Our kids were about the same age and probably like hundreds of other moms out there, I thought maybe she would find a connection and a comfort. I think she was already too big for that though. Regardless, I began to follow her blog, like I do many other DS mommas and had to swallow my tongue and my pride every time someone sent me a link to her site, which was often.
Kelle and I are very different people even though many of the circumstances and events in our lives are so similar. We both come from broken families where the church took sides and we, as kids were caught in the middle of a manipulative game. We have families that have taught us to love despite mistakes, misgivings, sexual orientation and pressure from those we trusted. The first chapters of Bloom couldn't make our differences more evident. I was captivated by her response to Nella. It was completely foreign to me and I while I felt my throat tighten as I read of her first night, the gut-wrenching pain that she spoke of was something I knew very little about.
Do you know the phrase, What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger? I hate that phrase. But now thinking back on it, I guess it is true. My life has been through many valleys. A friend commented on the last part of Ella's story, that she cried when she heard about Ella: How could this happen to my beautiful Krista? Hadn't their family been through enough? I won't go into the details but lets just say there has been major refining in my life. This refining I cursed at the time, but perhaps it was the reason that instead of crying out "WHY ME?!", I thought quietly, of course, me.
I have never had a "perfect" life at least not in the way society views perfect, so unlike Kelle, I didn't feel like I was losing out on anything when Ella was born. And when looking at this book as a whole, I think that would be my biggest disappointment: Kelle spends more time talking about herself, how she would accept the challenge...that she has been given lemons but with her incredible attitude and strength will make lemonade. Instead, I saw Ella as a gift. A precious gift that I had been entrusted with from God and he would give me the strength and grace to raise this child. And this, my friends is what our differences hinge on. While Kelle talks about God and even believes in God, He plays a very different role in her life than mine. She knows the lingo, she was a PK (pastor's kid) for goodness' sake but there is a serious disconnect and relationship that needs to be mended there.
This brokeness shines through in Chapter Nine when she talks about "God-spinners".
"And so I pictured myself, on a hill, fist raised to the thundering skies shouting to it all - to God, to the Universe, to Coincidence, to Science - "I see your challenge. I accept. I accept. I'll show you how I can do it. You have no idea just how I'm gonna rock this out."
That being said, I know she is not alone and many of her readers probably praise her for her honesty. They can relate to being hurt by the church. Its a common and complicated problem that comes from having finite sinners as the representatives of God here on earth.
There is a lot of growth that goes on between chapter six with her stories of getting completely wasted, skinny dipping and walking home stark naked and chapter 11 when she starts to sober up. After that, I can relate a bit more, and isn't that what so many people are looking for in reading this book? Hoping to find something they can relate to? Find out what the secret is to the courage, hope and optimism that Kelle seems to emanate?
From Chapter 11 to the end of the book she recognizes that she has been handed a torch. Whether she wanted it or not, she graciously accepted it and did as she says, faked it until she could make it. She was made a leader, or maybe always was and when you are a leader, sometimes, even though you are not completely convinced in your heart, you know what is right in your head and so you are bold and carry on. She maintains her personal touch and it sometimes resembles more of a Grad yearbook write-up than a New York Times best seller but I think she always knew she wasn't out to write a textbook or a self-help book, just one person's story, her story and that is why so many people love it, besides, we are a blogging generation.
In the last chapters, that inward focus turns outward as she talks about the Buddy Walk that she said she would never do, but raised over $6000 from, and Nella's Onefunder that raised over $100,000 all for the National Down Syndrome Society. I have watched her blog grow, and seen her attempts to connect with her thousands of followers. And despite my honest opinions on some of the shortcomings of the book I have to applaud her and recognize that she has faced a huge learning curve with grace. She has come a long way from the first negative feedback she received via Enjoying the Small Things to now, when I am sure, people feel much less hesitant about telling her when she has said something wrong.
Taking it beyond the book, I am pretty impressed that she has been able to maintain the essence of her blog since the book was released, considering her life is probably full of emails, writing, PR, etc. I often wonder if she has since gotten herself an assistant. We'll see what the future holds for Kelle Hampton.
Now that you know what I think, why don't you find out for yourself. Long story short, I accidentally ordered two. So just leave me a comment or email to let me know and it's yours.