Life Is Beautiful: How a Lost Girl Became a True, Confident Child of God" by Sarah M. Johnson
(Morgan Jones Publishing, $17.95)
By Mary Ann Grossman
Sarah Johnson lived through one of the most horrible experiences a human being can face. In August 2008, she and her parents and brother Zach, of Amery, Wis., were on a plane carrying 14 people that crashed in a field in Guatemala. Eleven passengers died, including Sarah's father and brother, whose mangled, burned bodies she saw. Her mother was hanging upside down in the fire, pleading with Sarah to help her. But the 18-year-old could do nothing and had to stand back.
Even before the crash, Sarah was not doing well. Her dad was a meth addict who wasn't available during much of her childhood. He kicked the habit, and that's why the family was on the way to Guatemala to build houses. Her dad took in her aunt, who was dying of uterine cancer, and Sarah abandoned her first year at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where she was so lonely and out of place she spent her time partying and drinking.
Johnson's vividly written narrative moves between flashbacks of her past and the crash's aftermath. Sarah felt overwhelmed when she and her mother, who was in a coma, returned to the United States. She felt lost and alone, although she got some help from her grandparents. She didn't know what to do with the bills, legal papers, insurance and all the other things her dad had handled. Her mother, in pain and bitter that she was left to burn in the plane, was angry and cruel to Sarah.
Nobody in Sarah's extended family paid much attention to her even though she moved in with her uncle. Only alcohol numbed her pain, as it did for many of her relatives.
Sarah began healing, although not all at once, when she was put in touch with Twin Cities therapist Pauline Boss, whose sympathy and understanding were the young woman's lifeline to sobriety and a renewed faith in God.
The author, who was working on a master's degree in family and marriage therapy when the book was published, is married and has two children. Although she doesn't use the word, she's clearly finally at peace.
Reviewed By Tracy Slowiak for Readers’ Favorite
Have you ever read a book, that upon finishing, you just knew would be a story that would stay with you for a long, long time? Well, that certainly was the case for me when I finished the last words of The Painting and The Piano by authors John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo. Following the true story of the authors through their childhood and into adulthood, the story shows how the devastating effects of having a parent, and more specifically a mother, who deals with substance abuse issues can have lifelong consequences for children. John and Adrianne are raised thousands of miles from each other, and both seem to have all that a child could ever want, but their mother’s actions will cause their lives to be torn completely apart. With little help from anyone, including the court system, it is almost entirely left up to John and Adrienne themselves to find what all humans strive for; security, love and happiness.
I so loved The Painting and The Piano. Authors John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo have done a simply splendid job in telling their stories, although unique, in a wonderfully intertwined way that pulls them both together. The stories, though difficult, are told delicately, but with humor and will grab readers from the very beginning. I was absolutely unable to put down this book until the very end, and that is certainly not the case for me with many works of non-fiction. Any reader who enjoys a great work of non-fiction, an autobiography, or a story of redemption and triumph in the face of great odds and a difficult history, should absolutely read The Painting and The Piano. They will not regret it.