Freefall to Fly

A few months back, I wrote a review of the novel Americanah because of its rich layers and interwoven themes: Immigration, The Third Culture, Cross-cultural living. Books must really be of a particular type for me to feature them on my blog. I wrestle with those topics on a very personal level and that is why I chose to share the book with you.

Freefall to Fly isn’t about any of those themes, but it is all about Transition. In this non-fiction book, author Rebekah Lyons recounts her journey to find purpose and meaning as she moves her family of five from the South (USA) to recreate family life in New York City. Along the way, we are introduced to chronic panic attacks that plague her existence, to a son born with Down Syndrome, to the pressures she feels to be the perfect mother and a suffocating desire to “have it all”. Reaching that point of despair over and over, Rebekah capitulates and chooses to walk straight towards her fears, and into the vast unknown. This surrender, that which she calls “the freefall”, enables her to fly and find purpose and meaning. Hence the title.

Most of us who have considered transition will find these thoughts familiar and inspiring:

Who will catch us when we fall? We don’t have an answer, so we stay far from the ledge. Far from the possibility of failure or pain. Because falling without a safety net terrifies us. Never mind that we are equipped with wings on our backs, rusty from disuse. Wings we’ve had since childhood that have been clamped down so long they aren’t sure how to spring forth anymore. We fear they aren’t strong enough to carry us now, so we peek over the ledge at the lush growth and waterfall below, but we wouldn’t dare jump. Instead, we toil responsibly at the life we’ve created. Far from the ledge.

While I couldn’t quite identify with the mental health disorders Lyons and her father wrestled with, I certainly enjoyed her account of motherhood, transformation, moving and encouraging other women to find their calling. If anything, in her attempts at packaging it all neatly into one single memoir, I think the author tried to broach a few too many topics. For better or for worse, Freefall to Fly reads a little bitsy, similar to that of a personal journal. That was the author’s stylistic choice. Fair enough. Some readers might be drawn to this style because it might feel like you are on a date with a friend, hearing their off the cuff thoughts. In my own opinion, there is a really vital message of finding meaning through surrender, but even for the purpose of this review, it was hard for me to extract the very essence of the book. I found the core message and some pretty revolutionary ideas watered down by a little too much stream of consciousness for my own liking, as well as many rabbit trails, testimonials of other women, quotes from other books and ideas begging to be fleshed out. I’ve since heard the author speak about this powerful message of deliverance from fear into a life of freedom and calling and I absolutely believe she has a wonderful message to share. I would also read her next book, because I think she might have another one in her.

All in all, Freefall to Fly is an easy read, with a vulnerable, thus likeable narrator-author, who inspires the reader to face the discomfort that comes with confronting his/her fears. This is a Christian book, but I do believe readers who do not share the author’s faith might enjoy it too. Rebekah weaves questions to the reader into her own story to invite us to stay in that same awkward freefall instead of always running to the next greatest distraction or thrill. Facing our fears, she writes, opens the way forward.

With a 2015 personal banner beckoning me to “just be present”, this idea of sitting in the discomfort, the grief, the unknown really spoke to me. I’ll leave you with a quote found in the book from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts :

Wherever you are, be all there. I have lived the runner, panting ahead in worry, pounding back the regrets, terrified to live in the present, because here-time asks me to do the hardest of all: just open wide and receive.

Disclosure: I was given this book to review on my blog by Tyndale House Publishers. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to write a positive review.

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