Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Working It Out: A Journey of Love, Loss, and Hope

By Abby Rike

New York, Faith Words, 2011

274 pages Spiritual

Working It Out is a spiritual memoir of a young speech and drama teacher from Texas who in one shattering moment lost her husband, 5-year-old daughter and newborn son in a horrific automobile accident. Through will, determination, and the grace of God, Abby Rike survived her overpowering grief. She was accepted on the Biggest Loser TV show, season 8, (2009) lost 100 pounds, and gained the emotional strength to redefine herself.

The memoir begins with the moment when Abby Rike’s family was torn away from her. It then moves back to the point at which she met her husband. It discusses in detail their brief marriage, the birth of their son and the adoption of Abby’s young daughter by her new husband. This was an exceptional marriage; the Rikes’ were both teachers and ran the forensics program at the same high school. They were as well loved by their students as they were by their families. When her family died and Abby was left alone, she tried several ways to resurrect herself, including moving to another state and another school district, and then taking on the challenge of The Biggest Loser.

As painful as this book is to read, Abby Rike’s resilience shines through. From the very onset of the tragedy, through the grace of God, she was able to find her way through the maze of grief and despair and emerge a wholly new person. She says: “It wasn’t that I just lost them in the here and now; I lost everything that they were going to be. Part of my grieving process was accepting the realities of the situation—no making them more or less than what they were, but being accurate in the scope of things. That is what my life was. This is what it is now.” Through letters, Facebook postings, and journal entries, she reminds the reader that sometimes life isn’t fair; that tragedy happens, but there are moments of brilliance and utter clarity that can serve to help us not just survive but thrive.

She is quick to note that making these momentous changes in her life do not free her from the grief that occasionally consumes her. She writes: “That doesn’t mean that everything is wonderful or that life is easy. I still have to choose every day to continue on, and I still have bad days. My family is still gone, and it is still a struggle. The Biggest Loser did not wave a magic fairy wand and declare that I live happily ever after. This is a battle I’ll fight forever, but it’s a battle I know how to win.”

Yesterday, my husband and I heard a speech by William Cope Moyers about his years of addiction and loss and his struggle to stay sober for the past 17 years. He talked about the fact that a new chance did not solve all the old problems, and that he struggles every day to keep his equilibrium. Every new challenge makes him have to readjust and readapt.

In the book Working It Out, Abby Rike shares with us the way she has survived and thrived. She doesn’t preach, but through example, shows us the grace of God working in her life. When my young husband died, someone told me that even though her husband had died twenty years before, she could still summon up that grief and would inexplicably find herself in tears. Well, it has been 25 years for me, and the other day, I gave my engagement ring to my daughter’s boyfriend so that he could propose to my daughter. I was swept back to that grief, and spent an hour or two grieving for what wasn’t and what could have been.

The beauty of Abby Rike’s book is that she understands the road that lies before her won’t be easy, but with determination and the grace of God, the worst is behind her.

I received this book as an advanced readers copy. It becomes available today, May 4. I recommend it.

Abby Rike now works as a motivational speaker. You can find her website here:

Because the book is just out today, there are few reviews available. One can be found here:

The Biggest Loser Season 8:

An interview with Abby Rike:

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