People write books for a variety of reasons – sometimes they have a lesson to teach, or a message to share, sometimes it is to make money, and sometimes for their own therapy. In Laura’s case, you get the distinct impression throughout that therapy is her reason; however, as you start to reach the final chapters of “Just Another Girl’s Story...” , you come to realize that the “redemption” to which she refers in the title, she is assuming from spreading her pro-life message. For much of it, I am not sure who this book is aimed at – of course, as Laura starts to earnestly share her anti-abortion message, I did consider that it was written as part of her campaign, which is, of course, the supposed key to her redemption. Laura resists becoming preachy, and for that I admire her, but be warned, if you have strong pro-abortion views, this book may not be for you.
I am not pro-life (at least not in the anti-abortion sense), and while I praise Laura for sharing her story so frankly and candidly, I did feel that most of her conflict in adult life, and indeed the apparent subject of this book, is a direct result of shame and guilt for her younger choices, which I am sure she will agree with. While I have no desire or inclination to judge Laura for anything she has done – including her current stance – this is obviously a book which invokes a reaction from the reader, and having sent me her book to review, I can only assume she is prepared for me to share mine. It seems to me that Laura has spent much of her life attempting to externalize responsibility for her actions – when she was younger, by claiming “addiction” and “ADHD”; nowadays, by justifying her, in her own words, hypocrisy, by embracing God as her guide. However, I agree with her on one count, in this respect: that she was let down as a teenager, badly, by the adults in her life; through all of her brave candour, probably the most telling moment in this book was, for me, the moment she confronted her mother, as an adult, only to be dismissed with a flippant brush-off of “things that happened in the past”. Of course, very few of us don’t carry the burden of our teenage years with us – a need to delve into them later should not be dismissed as pointless. I feel that Laura would benefit a huge deal by actually internalizing her choices as her own, then coming to realize that she was not the abnormal adolescent she has unfairly labelled herself as. The fact is that while the consequences of her behaviour were severe, and to some extent unlucky, her behaviour itself, while misguided and troublesome, was perhaps not as different to many others as she has convinced herself; most teenagers make bad choices – the only difference in Laura’s case is that she was one of those unfortunate enough not to escape them. For this reason I feel that Laura’s absolution would perhaps be more therapeutic were it to come from within, rather than from God, and that her best chance of leading the happy life she so desperately needs is from self-awareness; by actually embracing her past behaviour and explaining it in more realistic terms, as the foolish behaviour of a precocious teenager, without the externalisation, labelling or self-loathing. It may surprise her that I am regularly sent books by pro-life campaigners on a mission to absolve their own past abortions, and she is certainly not alone.
I did find it hard to relate to Laura and Shawn’s life, in most respects, and this diminished my appreciation of what I otherwise know to be a well-written, gripping and strangely entertaining book. It is difficult to read at times, not least because the couple led the kind of life most of us would prefer to distance ourselves from – one characterized by poor decision making and lifestyle. In the last third of the book, when things appear to start finally going well for Laura, you do find yourself growing slightly nervous, waiting for something to go wrong – not by luck or uncontrollable factors, but self-inflicted. There were times I found myself smiling for her, and at other times, shouting at her; of course, that is testimony to an author who really does well her job of drawing in and engaging the reader. It is utterly compelling and gripping, perhaps in the main because you want Laura to wake up and change herself. She did fantastically well to order her life with prospects and education, but as a reader who is not religious, and an advocate of psychology, I do wonder if loving God has genuinely been enough to give her the emotional peace she so desperately wants. I must admit, I did groan when I realized religion is a fundamental ingredient to “Just Another Girl’s Story...”. But, to her credit, Laura ensures that this does not overpower what is otherwise a brave and refreshing memoir.
In : Book Reviews