This week a woman asked me for a book club suggestion. She was looking for a memoir or a short biography, she said, but something “not all woe and depressing.”
Memoirs get a bad rap. And of course there are bad memoirs, just like there are bad novels, but good memoirs are “not all woe and depressing.” Good memoirs, like all good books, all good storytelling, lift the reader up and keep us hooked.
If you’re someone who remembers first lines, take this one: For the first seven years of my life, my nickname was Jolly — Jolly because my smile, pudgy cheeks, and a potbelly intimated that a giggle was just around the corner. While I couldn’t recall this word for word, I remembered most of it and, of course, Jolly. I remembered the joy I felt reading that intro. I wanted to know about this jolly boy.
Five years ago, my friend Matthew Sanford published his first book with that first line. Matt had an incredible story to tell. I knew this, which means to say a knew some basic details of Matt’s life. What I didn’t know was “the story,” and what an incredible story this is. Even when I read WAKING in an early draft, I knew he was onto something. I toted that manuscript around for two days and read it every chance I could get.
Here’s what it’s about:
When Matthew Sanford was just thirteen, his family’s car skidded off an overpass on an icy Iowa road — killing his father and sister, paralyzing him from the chest down, and changing his life forever. Years later, yoga would dramatically change it again. In WAKING: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, June 2006), Matthew chronicles his journey from the intensive care unit to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Along the way, Matthew gains a deeper understanding of the connection between mind and body, and formulates an entirely new view of existence as a “whole” person.
Yes, he said yoga teacher. So if you or your book club are looking for a special memoir to read, here you go. When you turn the last page, you’ll have plenty to discuss, and you’ll want to go out an live your best life. Nothing woe or depressing in sight.