Once in awhile you come across a book that is not just a good read but one that changes your life forever. Brenda Bartella Peterson's No Rehearsal: A Memoir published by Global Memory Press is just such a work of art.
I have intermittently met the author through my late sister who was the partner of Brenda's stepdaughter. But even if I weren't acquainted with Brenda personally, I would feel like I knew her as my best friend after reading her life story.
That's how potent and raw her writing is. I told her I was impressed and admiring of the courageous vulnerability she displayed by relating her spiritual journey to the world. Brenda shared with me that this seven year project was a difficult process because it made her relive many experiences most would not want to have to face again.
But she pushed through the nightmares and painful memories to complete the memoir and actually found the experience to be quite empowering and cathartic. It is for the reader too.
This literary work started out as a self-help book and morphed into her life story. The ironic thing is that it does actually serve the purpose of a self-help book in that through her roller coaster ride that has taken her from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness, others can learn life lessons about brokenness, redemption, and resurrection.
My social interactions through the years with Brenda have been brief and I have always admired her self-assuredness and positive outlook on life. I had no idea of her background or what she has persevered to get to the joyful place she is in right now.
I realize my reading of her memoir is different than others because I have met and know many of the people mentioned in her book. These connections brought up emotional reactions that others would probably not feel. For this reason, reading it was a healing experience for me.
I am not a mother and never married but I told Brenda that I could relate to her in many ways. We are both into music, she as a singer and me as a French hornist. We both love the music of the 30s and 40s (our parents' generation), we share a favorite movie (the original Parent Trap), and we both attended Baptist summer camp and sang in our church choirs. And we both share a love of writing.
I'm sure other readers will find ways in which they can relate to Brenda and that is one of the reasons I think this is such an inspiring book. It has been said that "into every life a little rain must fall." Brenda, by sharing her intimate life story, has expressed the universal human experience of surviving betrayal, then learning to trust again through forgiveness.
An ordained pastor, she believes the Resurrection is not just about Jesus rising from the dead. We all are capable of resurrecting ourselves from the very depths of hell on earth. And Brenda has the scars to prove that. She believes life is a process of getting to know one's authentic self and this is what redeems us.
I'd like to quote Brenda from her prologue of No Rehearsal: A Memoir which kind of sums up what this book is all about:
I wonder if the timid little girl, lips chapped red all the way up to her nose, mouth covered in fever blisters, would recognize the confident woman I have become. The waif who mothered all her siblings morphed into a brave, bossy, sassy survivor who can be herself. Who discovered that when she puts down her mask, she no longer feels isolated or responsible. If I could, I would reach back to tell that little girl the joy that comes when I'm just me. Writing this book is one way of doing that.
And writing this book is a way to share hope with the world. I came away thinking that if Brenda can, not just survive, but thrive in her life after what she has been through, I can, too.
Brenda confided in me that it is a gift she has been given to be able to be open and vulnerable to people. And her book is a gift that I will be sharing with several friends as a holiday present. Through writing it she has presented a gift to us all.