Monday, August 8, 2011

‘A Short Life Well Lived’ by Tom Sullivan – Book Review

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I have been familiar with the multi-talented raconteur Tom Sullivan for decades, and have admired him greatly. I had the opportunity to read his latest novel, ‘A Short Life Well Lived,’ and knew I couldn’t pass it up!

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

“A tumor?” I repeated, my voice shaking. With those two words, doting father Brian O’Connor is plunged into the deepest nightmare he can imagine. All his baseball-loving son, Tommy, did was break his arm when pitching…and then doctors saw a malignant growth in the eleven-year-old. Now father and son must tread an uncharted road full of frustration and fear.
Brian had never faced a foe he couldn’t overcome or outmaneuver. Blind since birth, he’s blown down every obstacle in his path. Now a happily married father of two, and a successful prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, he must confront the possibility of death – an enemy maddeningly tricky to fight.
As the battle to save Tommy’s life stretches his family’s stamina to the limits, it will take all of Brian’s resources – including a patient minister who challenges his faithlessness – to help Tommy endure treatment and a frightening prognosis.
In this powerfully moving novel, bestselling author Tom Sullivan, a blind father himself, sensitively takes readers on a journey of discovery. There is pain, yes, but also hope; understanding the ways of God sometimes intervenes in life’s crises and learning how to keep faith when He doesn’t. You will leave the story enlightened, moved, and grateful – and perhaps with a strengthened faith of your own.

Here is the biography of this author:

Tom Sullivan, known to many as an actor, singer, entertainer, author, and producer, lives and works by "Sullivan's Rules". Born prematurely in 1947, Tom was given too much oxygen while in an incubator. Though it saved his life, it cost him his eyesight. The "inconvenience" of being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better. 
Over the years he's made a number of guest-starring appearances in shows such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame, M.A.S.H., Mork & Mindy, and WKRP in Cincinnati. To create the characters and fulfill the role of a blind man on prime time, he also helped write and develop many of these stories. He gained popularity on daytime TV as a regular on Search For Tomorrow and was awarded the 1984 Governors Committee Award for his role. Tome has also been nominated twice for Emmy Awards. As a special correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America, Tom has become a regular morning fixture in millions of American homes. his touching and insightful reports give many that "you can do it" bit of inspiration to start their day. Whether it was snow skiing with his son in Colorado, or interviewing the legendary Jack Nicklaus over a few holes of golf, his reporting is memorable. He is now writing and producing for television and film. He is a bestselling author of fiction, non-fiction, and children's books. His autobiography, If You Could See What I Hear, was adapted into a major motion picture. Tom is now writing and producing for television and film.

Here is a video biography of Tom, narrated by Betty White. What an inspirational man!:

For someone who has completed many marathons and half marathons over the last three years – and also has an interest in what happens after this life - I was captivated by page one of this book. Here is how Mr. Sullivan opens the Prologue:

I’ve heard it said that life is a marathon – a race to the finish twenty-six miles and three hundred and eighty-five yards long. Our mile markers are the years – five, tens, twenty, fifty, seventy-five – and the finish line is death…or is that just the starting line? Is the marathon of our lives only the beginning of eternity? Who can know? And what if you’re forced, due to injury or illness, to drop out of the race early, to end the competition long before expected?
I’m Brian O’Connor, a husband, a father, a lawyer, and a man who happens to be blind. On this pristine Monday in April, I stand in Hopkinton, a small suburb of Boston, at the start of the Boston Marathon. Thousands and thousands of people’s lives will be changed forever as they snake their way to downtown Boston. The first twelve miles are downhill, and then they will face Heartbreak Hill, which is actually five hills, as they struggle to reach the top and hear the cheers from the coeds of Wellesley College. (p. 1)

Those first two paragraphs captivated my attention immediately!

A little later on, Brian shares where his faith lies, as well as the faith of his wife, Bridgette:

Having been raised in a strict Catholic household and attended Boston College with a Jesuit education, I grew up respecting priests and honoring the mantle of Father. But over the years, I had lapsed in my faith. While Bridgette and I were doing a good job raising our children as Catholics and I did attend Sunday mass, the role of God in my life was hazy at best. I can’t say I actively lived a spiritual existence. (p. 16)

Their son, Tommy, was experiencing a health crisis, and Brian and Bridgette handled the situation differently, due to their different faith journeys. Here are Brian’s observations as they prayed in the hospital chapel:

Thought it was nondenominational, the chapel did have a central altar, and we knelt at it, two people coming from very different places regarding faith.
Bridgette was intense, ardent in her prayers. I could tell, listening to the sincerity of her whispers as her lips moved, entreating God, begging Him to make Tommy okay.
My prayer was much simpler because my faith was much less committed. I hoped God was on our side, but I wasn’t the kind of person who counted on any form of divine intervention. Maybe my blindness has made me too self-reliant. I wasn’t sure, but prayer had never been a critical part of my life. I was sure that it wasn’t something you could turn on because you need it, so my minimalist prayer was in support of my wife’s remarkable faith. (p. 63)

The hospital’s chaplain, Reverend McRae, grew close to Brian, as his spiritual advisor and running partner. Here he is explaining what his hope was for Brian:

“Brian,” McRae went on, insistent, “I believe that whatever happens to Tommy, if you have faith in God, if you will trust his life to Christ – if you will trust your own life to Christ – trust in His redemption, His resurrection, and in the power of prayer, you will be provided with the grace to cope.”
After a while, I asked, “So what is grace? You keep talking about God’s grace, but what is it?”
“Undeserved love,” he said quietly. “Grace is God’s unmerited love for us. Look, we’ve all screwed up. We don’t deserve anything good from God. That’s why the Bible talks about redemption – Jesus becoming the God-man as our Redeemer. Through Jesus, God promises us redemption. And His singular desire is to provide us with the grace necessary to complete our journey. We don’t deserve God’s grace, but it’s His gift to us.” (pp. 143-144)

This is an incredible book, as is the author himself! I was so touched by the love of this family, as well as the incredible faith of Reverend McRae. This would be a terrific book for someone who is struggling with a difficult time in his/her life. Mr. Sullivan very adeptly shares the salvation message, and provides a blueprint for enduring a struggle. I thank him for writing such a valuable and powerful book.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Howard Books and provided by Glass Road Public Relations for review purposes.

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