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Monday, February 1, 2010

book review: "beautiful" by cindy martinusen-coloma

Ellie Summerfield has it all: she’s dating one of the most popular guys in the senior class, she’s senior class president, beautiful, active in her youth group – she’s seemingly perfect. Little does she know things are about to change. The story begins with the death of Ellie’s grandfather – a man she hardly knew but who made his dislike for her clear. With him now gone, she is struggling with never knowing why he didn’t like her as well as juggling everything else going on in her life. Life is all about choices and it’s when Ellie makes the choice to go to a party that her life will forever change. Ellie is riding home from the party with a friend named Stasia. While driving down the road, Ellie realizes she’s grown up with the other girl almost her entire life yet she barely knows her. “You know,” she said, changing the subject, “we should hang out more.” Stasia smiled as she drove down the road. “We should. High school is so crazy. I don’t really do much with any of my friends anymore. Life’s short, so we should enjoy it.” Moments later a deer jumps in the road and as Stasia swerves to miss it, she goes off the road, the car turning and twisting before an eerie silence settles. While Ellie is pulled from the car and rushed to the hospital, Stasia dies upon impact. The left side of Ellie’s body is burned and she must now begin the long journey to recovery. Ellie doesn’t understand why she lived while Stasia didn’t. The God she once had an unwavering faith in seems to be on vacation and is not currently seeing what she’s going through.

Counseling is part of Ellie’s healing. The therapist tells Ellie at one point, “You’re grieving many things right now, Ellie, whether you realize it or not. You’ve lost the life you had – a life free from the pain that you’ve already endured and will continue to endure. You had someone die beside you – best friend or just an acquaintance, that has a very big effect. You lost your boyfriend, the dreams and plans you had…” Ellie is no longer the girl she was before the accident – that Ellie seemed to die with Stasia in the car wreck. She has to now re-discover who she is; all of the things that consumed her time before the accident seem trivial. She must learn that beauty isn’t just found in physical appearance but in having the strength to move forward when life tries to keep you down.

This story is one that I feel we all can identify with. It’s a story of overcoming obstacles and finding who you are. It’s about what you do when life doesn’t go as you plan. It’s about moving on despite your fears. It’s about not letting others dictate how you should live your life – doing what you feel called to do, despite if no one supports you. It’s about how God can bring good out of any situation. It’s about having hope. I like the last line of the book: “…Ellie took in a deep breath and wondered about all that waited ahead. It was more than she could imagine, and that seemed exactly how it should be.”

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