Friday, June 14, 2013

In His Hands by Jenny Hess - A Review

I didn’t know what to expect when I began Jenny Hess’s book In His Hands, but the subtitle A Mother’s Journey Through the Grief of Sudden Loss was a clue, so I was prepared for a sad story. It is a sad story—my mother would call it a three-hankie book—but it’s much more than that. My review is going to have to be random thoughts because I promised to post today, and I just finished it yesterday.

Random thought #1: Jenny Hess’s book In His Hands should be required reading, because everyone at one time or another is going to be bereaved, and having read this book is going to be forearmed. She lets you know that there are things in life that can shake the foundation of faith and familial ties, but you can work through it and arrive at a place—albeit a different place—where both faith and ties are intact.

Random thought #2: The book is well written. I remember a professor teaching me the difference between sentiment and sentimentality. He said that sentiment creates thoughts or views through good descriptions and characters, whereas sentimentality manipulates the reader’s emotions. He said here’s how you tell if something is sentimentality: when reading something makes you cry and you’re ashamed of your tears. This book made me cry, but I was never ashamed. Ms. Hess’s description of her experience in the emergency room is powerful and I know will linger with me for a long time.

Random thought #3: In His Hands reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Remembered. In that book, Lewis lets the reader accompany him on his journey as he works through his grief at losing his wife. It’s a warts-and-all journey by a person who has written and lectured widely about dealing with emotional pain as a Christian and then finds that lecturing about it is easier than living through it. Ms. Hess tells us several times how, pre-loss, she was the epitome of Mormon Motherhood Capability, and she bravely and generously lets us see how thoroughly the props were knocked out from under her.

Random thought #4: This book is a primer for how to deal with people who have experienced a profound loss. It teaches us that there are many ways to deal with that loss and that each is okay, that we should not judge because someone isn’t expressing grief the way we think they should. It also offers lessons for those on the outside looking in who want to help but don’t know how.

Random thought #5: This book is written from the perspective of a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the lessons learned are universal. See Random Thought #1.

So there you go. In His Hands is the kind of book that stays with you for days after you finish it, but those random thoughts are the ones that sprang to mind this morning. I highly recommend this book, but keep a box of tissues close by, because you will certainly be moved by Jenny Hess’s story.