Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl & Mary Carver

 Habakkuk 3:18 was Sara's life verse.
"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
-Dolly Parton"

Habakkuk 3:17-19(MSG)

Though the cherry trees don't blossom and the strawberries don't ripen, 
Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, 
I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. 
Counting on God's rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I'm king of the mountain!

"Sara's story only grew louder, braver, bolder with her death. It's a story that we all need to keep hearing." --Lisa-Jo Baker, bestselling author of Surprised by Motherhood

Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn't let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy--again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.
CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.
In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task--but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.

My Personal Review:

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is a tender love story between Sara & God, whereby she allows the reader to peek into her world of chronic illness. Her clearly communicated message of  hope that life is really a precious gift from God, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, is one of encouragement and immeasurable faith!

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is a newly released candid writing filled with inspiring advice that will not only make you "feel" joyful, but will actually teach you how to choose joy even if your plans don't line up with what the Lord has assigned for your life. The book is presented as a series of blog posts from the deceased Sara Frankl and narrated by Mary Carver. 

Where do I begin with this book? First off, I had no prior knowledge or connections with either of these writer's blogs. I simply chose this book for it's title, because I want to "choose joy" in my life. I mean who doesn't want that, right? However, this quickly became more than just "another book" for me. It's depth and stripped down simplicity for all things pertaining to the true meaning of a well lived life are present in every single chapter.

Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author writes on the back cover, "This isn't a story about dying. It's a story about living." I would have to disagree with part of that. I think this is a story about living and dying. The book is pertinent for all of us, but I would quickly hand this book to anyone with a terminal illness, as Sara's walk through the valley of death could be very comforting to another who is in the same situation. 

Her contagious trust in a loving God and her ability to express it in an encouraging manner are incredible! She brings an authenticity that only someone actually enduring such suffering and one having been given the finality of a death sentence could manage. Those of us who have never experienced this kind of life altering illness can talk about how we would respond, but until we are living it, we don't know. Sara knew. This book transparently reveals her choice to stand firm in her conviction that God is a loving God and that He only does good. She doesn't throw out cliche' phrases, but instead provides a blueprint on how she chose joy...and how we can too. That is what makes this book so unique.

Sara shares that life is a series of moments. We need to make a conscious effort to be completely present in those moments with attentive intention, so that we don't miss a single opportunity that God has for us. Her statement that, "It's not easy, but it is simple," sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact is a profound thought that Sara applied to her everyday life and it served to fuel her fire to continually apply joy in every situation. Sara believed deeply that there was a purpose for her illness and she wanted to be sure she didn't miss the assignment God had given her by wishing for a different one.

Mary Carver flawlessly utilizes her talented writing skills to connect each of Sara's blog posts throughout the book. This gives the reader insight into what was happening in Sara's life at the time of the different entries. Mary helps to give perspective into Sara's emotional, physical, and spiritual state and therefore provides even further dimension to Sara's story.

The only regret I have in reading Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is that I never got to meet Sara. I'm pretty sure, however, that if she were sitting here and heard me say that, Sara would laugh and inform me that God had another plan for our meeting and the timing of that introduction wasn't to be on this side of heaven. In honor of Sara and her life mission, Sara's blog (click here to go to blog) continues and there is a link to the "Choose Joy Sara Gitz Frankl Memorial Foundation" (click here) that clearly identifies the importance of spreading joy through the love of Christ to all who will listen. It is also a place for community, which was one of Sara's many passions. 

I will leave you with Sara's "favorite all-time quote" by Victor Hugo: 
"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones.
And when you have finished your daily task, got to sleep in peace. God is awake."

Thank you to FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc for this review copy of Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. The opinions within this review are strictly my own. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in it's entirety in exchange for honest feedback.


  1. Hello...This is Laura, Sara's sister. I want to say thank you for this beautiful and humbling review. As we continue this ministry, knowing that Sara's spirit led words are continuing to make a difference is a huge blessing! Peace.

    1. Hi Laura!
      I was so blessed by Sara's powerful story of faith and love for God! It was such a privilege to read this book and share it with others. Your family's willingness to reach out and allow others to gain strength from your pain is an incredible gift. Thank you.
      May the Lord continue to bless and keep you~Karen