If Kleenex boxes could be sent via email, she should have sent me one of those too. I promised to write a review and I’ll say upfront that parents of Third Culture Kids should buy this book (I am not an affiliate of anything and earn nothing if you do). I tried to read the book while in the lobby of a hotel and had to put it away so I wouldn’t snort and sniffle and otherwise disrupt the peace. I finished it at home.
The sub-title of the book is: a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing and that is a perfect description of this book. As the mother of boarding school kids, my eyes and heart burned while I read about her loneliness and the lies she told herself, and that seemed to be perpetuated by the environment, that she must be strong, must not feel the hurt.
The book is a series of letters Ruth didn’t write until later in life and chronicles her journey that began the first day of boarding school as a six-year old in the 1950s when, in her words, “her heart got pulled out.” Ruth writes bluntly and honestly and compassionately about her years in boarding school, high school in the US while her parents stayed in Nigeria, college, marriage, having children, and eventually moving overseas herself. She walks through separations and brokenness, loss and deep questions of faith.
Where was God when she was sick at boarding school and there was no comforting mother’s hand to soothe her? Where was God when she had to say good-bye, again, to parents and siblings and Nigerian friends? Where was God when she felt like a failure for crying?
And, I think ultimately, where is God when the pain is unbearable and is it okay to say that something good hurts like death?
She writes, “I wish someone would acknowledge that pain of what He is asking. Just once, I wish someone would give me a hug and say, ‘I understand. It’s okay to say that the right thing to do hurts. Go ahead and cry.'”
Through depression and wrestling, Ruth comes to a fuller understanding of grace and experiencing the comfort of God. The end of the book has a reflection on this comfort and on what it means to be a person made in the image of God. She also describes her journey of coming to write Third Culture Kids, which I found delightful because the process of writing always fascinates me.
Along with prayers and questions for my own children, I came away from this book with a longing to know this comfort of God, and with hope. Hope that through pain, Jesus shines beautiful and true and that the gospel has power. This is the only hope parents can hold when we know our choices are affecting our children for better and for worse, like Kelley wrote about on Tuesday in the Painting Pictures series.
Ruth writes, “There is great richness in this Third Culture Kid lifestyle and there is also great pain – ironically often because of the richness.”
Thank you Ruth, for your vulnerability. Thank you for contributing to this blog, for bringing my soul comfort, and for being a gentle shepherd of so many parents and TCKs.
Have you read any of Ruth’s books? Heard her speak? Other insights to share?
I have read the book 2x. I borrowed it both times and while I am currently in the US, I bought my own copy. I do want to cry w/ her and for her. I had the GREAT PLEASURE of meeting her 15 months ago when she was invited to speak to parents at our kids school. WHAT A JOY! She understands the pain and the joy of what this life we live means.
I think that is what gets me too – she understands and joy and pain and is brave to write it out and give others words. What a gift.
A marvellous review of a superb book by one of the most wonderful women any of us ever have the pleasure to meet. Like you, Sherri, I have the good fortune to have met her.
Thanks Jo, and thanks for the book!
Somebody gave me “Letters I Never Wrote” when I was in college 25 years ago, and although I had never gone to boarding school, I found a lot of healing through reading that book. I think it helped to validate my feelings as an MK/TCK. I in turn gave the book to another MK that I knew was going through a hard time. I don’t know if he ever read it or was helped by it. Back then it was one of the only books on that dealt with the pain and joy of a TCKs life. I’m, to this day, very grateful for that book.
I love that it continues to bless people, what a testament to the truth and depth of her words.
I remember the first time I picked up the book not liking it. I was in college and had just returned from Pakistan. In retrospect it was the wrong book for me at the time. I wasn’t at a place where I could say “I wish God had….or I wish my parents had …” instead I was at a place where my childhood TCK life was perfect and America sucked big time. Later on when I re-read I saw the beauty and value of her words. Your review makes me want to re-read it yet again through the eyes of now writing aboutthe TCK experience and Adult TCK raising TCK’s. My guess is I would have even more appreciation. Thanks for a wonderful review and weaving how you felt through it.
That’s so interesting Marilyn and totally makes sense. It would be a completely different book, I think, for a kid than for the parent. And the timing of it too for you then.
I read the book years ago but I didn’t like it….Having gone to boarding school myself, I could relate to so much of what she wrote and yet I found it put “feelings” into my heart that I hadn’t actually experienced. Because no one writes about boarding school I was excited to read it…and I understood intuitively the structures of the school, the skeleton of the book. I found myself feeling things I hadn’t actually felt. I imagined myself grieving things I hadn’t actually grieved. It was a strange experience reading it, but not a pleasant one, nor a particularly helpful one.
But perhaps I should read it again, as an adult….I’m sure my emotional response would be entirely different now.
Thanks for sharing this Robynn, it is good to hear this perspective as well. Especially since I haven’t gone myself, am just trying to parent through it. Your words are a good reminder to not put things onto my kids that maybe they aren’t feeling, to let them experience what THEY are experiencing.
You know I have been thinking about my previous comment ever since I wrote it and I have to say – Yes! You nailed it Robynn. It shouldn’t be read by kids unless they want to pick it up. I felt the same way – I felt like I was supposed to feel these things and I didn’t and then i thought I was strange and then I got mad at the book…..all that to say – I think parents have a completely different reaction than kids. It’s one of the things I worry about with conversations on TCK’s – that feelings will be prescribed to them that aren’t there. Lots to think about.