With their publication of Stephen Mansfield’s “The Faith of Barack Obama”, Thomas Nelson instituted a program that I hope continues, offering the first 200 bloggers to respond the chance to get a free copy of a book in exchange for a 200 word review, positive or negative. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read and review “The Faith of Barack Obama” and I was thrilled to see the offer repeated for Lynne Spears' new book, “Through the Storm”. At first I wasn’t going to ask for a copy of “Through the Storm”, as the only real time I have to read is in the evenings and since we’ve been busy at work lately my evenings are often cut short, depriving me of time with my family. My wife told me I could request the copy, and I did. It arrived about a week later.
I should point out right now that I am not a professional reviewer. I should learn how to better review books because I enjoy reading and writing. Having done this for two books I’m finding it to be fun, and it would be nice to either get free books or possibly earn a little money for this. Anyone know where to go to learn how to write a professional book review?
“Through the Storm” apparently generated a lot of controversy. Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, had to delete some comments regarding this book off of his blog. I’m not sure what those comments contained. Many were supportive, but some were very negative. One accused either Mr. Hyatt or Thomas Nelson of publishing the book for M.O.N.E.Y. I have no idea where that came from. A publisher publishing books to earn money? Where does the problem enter into the equation? How can a business meet payroll or other expenses without performing those tasks for which the business was created to perform?
“Through the Storm” was written as a memoir. I don’t think it qualifies as an autobiography, but I’m not an industry insider. The book was written as a way for Lynne Spears to tell her side of the story, and also a way to show her kids that she loves them. The book covers a time period from the 1920s until 2008, the year the book was published and I read it and wrote this review. Obviously a lot of controversy surrounds the story, some of it as told by the media. In a way, I figured maybe I could be an ideal reviewer as I pay very little attention to the mainstream press, and the entertainment press in particular. I find I can’t trust any story on the surface from any source, even the so called “conservative” press as everybody lives in a spin zone and either has an agenda to press or an axe to grind. I have little patience for party agendas masquerading as news. Since I pay so little attention to the press and the story, maybe I can present a more fair assessment of the recollection. I am so far removed from this story that I honestly had no idea who “Jamie Lynne” was. Some of the criticism surrounding this book had to do with “Jamie Lynne” and her pregnancy, but like I said, I didn’t know who she was or what she had to do with Brittany Spears. I didn’t know she was the star on Zoey 101, which I hadn’t watched. I know it came on after some of the children’s cartoons my boys watched, and it didn’t hold their attention or mine so the channel got changed or a DVD was put in. That is no reflection on the abilities of the actress, just that her show didn’t fit a genre that this 34 year old man or his 3 and 4 year old boys would watch at the time it was on. The only two songs of Brittany’s that I can name are “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and “Oops, I Did It Again.” I honestly can’t name anything else she’s performed.
A few of the details I remember about the Brittany Spears story are included in this book, so I’m grateful for those details. Let me begin my attempt to review the book. “Through the Storm” is 211 pages and hardcover. The MSRP of the book is $24.99, although it’s MSRP in British Pounds is 12.99. That must go to show you how weak the dollar is getting. I said in my “Faith of Barack Obama” review that I have no idea what goes into the pricing of a book, but I find $24.99 to be a little high, although again I have no objective data to back up that perception. It could be a reflection on inflation. I found a factual error in the book. On page 211 it records that Lynne Spears grew up in Kentwood, Indiana, although the rest of the book speaks of Kentwood, Louisiana. It’s a minor error.
“Through the Storm” is divided into 30 short chapters, which I found made it very easy to read. It's sort of like Reader's Digest; you can read a chapter or two as time presents itself. The narrative does flow in a mostly chronological fashion, although at times Lynne will jump around in the timeline while laying out her accounts of friends and family and the parts they’ve played. I had little trouble following the story, and I appreciated the timeline flow. It made sense to me how it was laid out and helped me better to understand the story. This book is written from a woman’s, and especially a mother’s perspective. I don’t feel that it alienated male readers although at times did get a little heavy on the feminine perspective. I have read women’s books in the past that I just couldn’t follow and had to put down and walk away from simply because I couldn’t follow or handle the thought patterns. I did not have a problem with this book. I think it presents Lynne Spears account in a way that is readable by a wide audience. The book talks about how Lynne’s parents got together, how her mom ended up in rural Louisiana, how she met her husband, how her own kids came about, and how Brittany and Jamie Lynne went to stardom and how some of it crashed down around them all. She tells of her husband’s alcoholism and their divorce, although I don’t take this as a tabloid tell-all, but like I said as a memoir.
Lynne is a Christian, and her thinking represents Christian thinking. I don't believe that non-Christians would find the book "preachy". Lynne occasionally will recall a Bible verse that went through her mind or how she believed that God strengthened her to handle matters that came up. Her family went through trials that I pray I never have to face. She speaks of how God's mercies are "new every morning".
About the only part of the story I had trouble following were chapters 27-29, the account of how someone named Sam, referred to as "The General" somehow came to a position of complete dominance over Brittany and was in a position to jerk around her family, friends, agents, managers, the paparazzi, and everyone else involved. The paparazzi from what I understand are in general slimeballs, so how this guy had them marching around INSIDE Brittany's house like his own private Army I can't follow from the few details given. I get the feeling that somehow this story runs deeper than either Lynne Spears knew or was able to recount in this book. I followed the timeline, but not quite what was going on under the surface. That's probably going to haunt me for a while just because of the way my brain works.
Some specifics that stood out to me included the Rolling Stone cover. I can remember discussing that one with my coworkers. We would ask "How could the father of a teenage girl, especially from a small town like that, permit this kind of undressed publicity of his daughter like that?" How easily we forget that the press will often just do what it wants to do. Lynne said that the bedroom shot was taken and used without any consent from any adult authority of Brittany's. The family just assumed that Rolling Stone would do the right thing. I also remember something about Brittany driving with one of her children on her lap. This story came to me through my wife I believe. I remember thinking "Don't these stars have to obey any rules at all? In New Jersey you could be arrested and lose your children to the Stazi, I mean DYFS for a stunt like that. Is it just par for the course in Hollywood?" Turns out from her mom that she was trying to escape the paparazzi. I've always thought "Paparazzi" was one of the stupidest words I've ever heard. Sorry, but I had to say it. I've heard from other accounts that these people will do anything to get a picture or shot.
I learned that Brittany's boys are actually closer in age than mine. Joshua was born July 27, 2004 and Caleb on August 11, 2005. That puts them 54 weeks apart. Brittany's boys are about a year and two days apart, although when I discussed the book with my wife, she said that Brittany had an early C-section to avoid extra stretch marks. My wife doesn't think highly of that Hollywood fad.
I think that ends my review comments of the book, so I just want to make a few general comments. For one, I honestly can't see what possible controversy could have surrounded this book. I didn't find it controversial at all. I think a few comments came from Christians asking how Lynne or her girls could call themselves Christians. To be honest, I have no idea how well my own walk would stand up in front of the press. I highly doubt that anybody else's Christianity would stand up in the public spotlight. We would all find something when our lives are picked apart that would cause either the press or other Christians to criticize us and claim that we can't possibly be Christians. I never want to live in that kind of microcosm. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
I truly enjoyed reading "Through the Storm" and writing this review. I am grateful to Michael Hyatt and Thomas Nelson for this program, to allow bloggers both great and small, both somebody and nobody, to get and review a copy of one of their books. I look forward to the next chance if they choose to continue this program.