RECOVERED by Rob Gallaty

Recovered. Rob Gallaty

From the off I have to tell you that I may have looked at this book from a different angle to which the writer would like. I am not religious, in fact I’m the very definition of an Agnostic.

I was intrigued by the fly cover information for the book. So I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m really glad I did

Rob Gallaty is today a successful pastor. His path to getting there is amazing

Rob narrates the book from his point of view, but I suspect he has had to ask for help in remembering some of the times he talks about, because for a lot of his teens and twenties he was lost in a chemically induced fog.

Raised in a happy Catholic family, in New Orleans,  he was diagnosed with ADHD and ADD but his parents shied away from the route of putting him on medication. From the start he admits his own flaws. He was the class clown that had to be the centre of attention and often found himself in trouble with his teachers.

Typically of somebody who suffered ADHD he threw himself headlong into anything he was good at or enjoyed, but quickly got fed up and bored with it.

As a teenager he played Basketball for his school, , standing at 6 foot 6, he was an imposing presence on the court, and enjoyed the adulation.

But when he went to college he was just another tall guy and his identity was lost, he was not the centre of attention he craved.  He also started to find the drug scene.

His final dive into the murky waters of drug taking were not actually his fault. Injured in a vehicle accident, that was not his fault, he became hooked on pain killers, but not just taking them, he found that by selling them he could make money.

Rob was good at everything he turned his attention too but always managed to press the self destruct button because along with his ADHD and ADD he has a highly addictive personality, and although in the early stages of drug use he considered himself a functioning addict, he soon spiralled down to his lowest point.

In fact after interventions and rehab he relapsed, and like a bouncing ball had highs and lows each good experience short lived as the bounce lessened.

But eventually he found his way out of the fog. Not as a Catholic but as a Baptist Pastor

His upward spiral is nearly as spectacular as the downward one

He has ups and downs but always with a focus. But unlike his other focuses in the past, this one never got boring, he never lost his interest. He relates to the bible, he relates to God, and as he looks back at his history he is convinced that somebody has been looking over his shoulder and protecting him.  After all many of his friends are dead form over doses, and many are in prison for dealing, but Rob is recovering and he has a clean police record.

Why did I say at the start that I looked at this boom from a different angle.  I admire Rob for what he has achieved. For me the story is more about survival and growing up. His determination to make something of himself shines through throughout the book.  If it wasn’t for that vehicle accident would he have gone down the drugs route, possibly.

If he hadn’t gone down the drugs route would his addictive personality led him to something else, alcoholism, gambling, possibly.

Would finding a focus have helped him avoid these things. I think not, because with most interests of this type there would have been a stress related to it, which may have led him down one of these paths.

What I think he found in the life he leads is a tranquility that no drug could give him.

A friend of mine often tells me that “ we get you all in the end”  referring to his religion. He is one on the nicest people I know. He is also one of the calmest and exudes  tranquility even at the most fraught of moments.

I’m glad “somebody” Got Rob Gallaty, and I’m glad he’s shared his experience. This is a tremendous account of survival.

How to Murder Your Life Cat Marnell

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How to Murder Your Life.     Cat Marnell

This type of book is not usually my thing, but since I’ve started lecturing in Colleges and Universities, I’ve seen a few young talented people nearly throw a lot of hard work away through partying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, and I certainly haven’t got a squeaky-clean past, but things seem different to this generation.

When I read the bumph for this book I thought maybe I was in for a cathartic revelation, the story of how bad things can get, with at least a hint of “don’t do this” from the author.

I was wrong. This is a terrible story of a young woman that had, from her account, a terrible upbringing by two totally dysfunctional parents.

Moving on from a sad home life Marnell somehow manages to portray that the only way she got through school, and college, was to over medicate on drugs prescribed to her by her father, scrounged from fellow students, or purchased of teenage drug dealers in her boarding school.

She clearly describes drug highs and tumbling lows which lead her to alcohol, underage sex, and bulimia.

Marnell’s dream job was to be a fashion journalist, and she managed to somehow gain internships with some of the biggest fashion magazines in New York. How, I’ll never know, her accounts of her getting stoned the nights before interviews, and turning up for work hours late.

She graphically describes showing herself up in front of industry leaders at lavish party’s whilst being showered with freebies by the fashion houses and make-up companies.

Yet she still managed to secure one of the top jobs, in one of the top magazines.

OK her life has been a nightmare, and if I had lived it I would probably be dead by now, but I was hoping for a story with some level of contrition. Is there any? Not a lot.

My honest opinion of this book is that is has been written more as a, “look what I’ve got away with” attitude.

The author is not bragging, but she’s not apologetic either. She makes fun of herself during some of the more lurid scenes; passing out at a party and waking up with, well god knows who, making herself sick in her “vomitarium” during bouts of bulimia, losing jobs and generally acting like a person with no self-respect.

Would I recommend this book to anybody?

No.

Why?

I Think it gives out the wrong messages. Yes it’s a sad story, but it’s a story of self-indulgence. It has no message it’s just words, words that make a nasty story about a very damaged young lady.

Notes of a Russian Sniper and American Sniper

Notes of a Russian Sniper Vassilli Zaitsev

American Sniper    Chris Kyle

As well as police procedural novels one of my passions in reading is biography’s or biographical accounts of historic events.

I’m not into celebrity, its usually Military, Fire, Police or Adventurers that I read. Recently I have read two books autobiographical books about Snipers.

Notes of a Russian Sniper-Vassilli Zaitsev is the book, and the person, that the film Enemy at the Gates was based on and is an account of a Russian Soldier who is recruited to the army during the second World War.

Transferred from training straight to the battle of Stalingrad Zaitsev recounts the utter devastation of the city during the siege by the German Forces. Describing hand-to-hand fighting and bombing in a strangely matter-of –fact way that transports the reader to the heart of the battles.

Zaitsev soon found a notoriety amongst his fellow fighters (both civilian and military) as a brave man, although he would not say so himself, its was not until he had been on the front line for a while that people realised he was a good shot. He had been raised in a family where hunting was a way of life and lying still patiently waiting for a shot came as second nature.

As word spread amongst the Russians he quickly became a folk hero and had a big effect on the moral of his fellow fighters.

He also gained a reputation amongst he Germans who tried to identify and target him. Crack snipers from the German Army were dispatched to find and kill him, some even came close.

This book not only describes Zaitsev’s experiences but its also one of the most descriptive books I’ve read on the siege of Stalingrad.

The other book I read was American Sniper by Chris Kyle. From 1999-2009 Kyle was a sniper for the American Seals special forces teams. He holds the record number of kills for an American sniper. The book describes Kyle’s exploits but the realm of modern warfare. He describes taking shots from 1000’s of metres, working in teams where he is guarded by groups of other soldiers with air cover and evacuation helicopters as part of the operations.

The two books could not cover such different conflicts.

The two authors are very similar in character, although Zaitsev does not go into his personal life as deeply as Kyle.

The comparisons are easy to see in their ethics and how they thought with one big difference. Zaitsev was at war to survive, Kyle fought a war on a different continent to where his lived and chose to do what he did. Zaitsev did it out of necessity.

It strikes me as strange that although both of these films have been made into blockbuster Hollywood films most people will only know of Kyle.

Most people don’t even realise that The Enemy at the Gate was based on a real person.

For me Notes of a Russian Sniper is by far the better book, and I suspect it is also the more accurate reflection of events.

Both these books are worth reading, in fact I’d suggest they were both read, but if you only read one.

Read Notes of A Russian Sniper.