Life, It’s a Beautiful Thing
Reviewed by Vicki Liston for Reader Views (12/11)
Any parent who had to bury their child hopes that their memory will live on in the hearts and minds of others. Author Laura Schaufel has ensured her deceased son is remembered with the publication of her book, “Life, It’s a Beautiful Thing.” Within its pages, she shares heartfelt recollections of his life as well as her own and the strong faith that saw her through it all.
Schaufel writes with a vivid passion; she sets the mood and puts the reader into the story with her beautiful imagery. This is what I liked best about the book. Whether it was the cold winter night of her birth in Pennsylvania or a summer afternoon in California, you felt like you were experiencing the situation right alongside her. The chapters serve as individual stories, centering on a specific memory or progression of a situation. However, they didn’t always feel like they were in the right order and gave the book an ‘un-chronological’ feel. For example, by the end of the third chapter (page 19) she was recounting the tragic death of her son, Craig, in 2010. However, she begins the next chapter by jumping back to 1986. The rest of the book continues in settings where Craig is still alive.
I also thought the front and back cover made the book misleading in a sense. On the back, Schaufel describes standing in the hospital room while her son fought for his life while the front cover depicts a young, grade-school-aged boy playing. It gave me the impression that I would be reading about a mother having to endure the loss of a child at this age. Upon reading, however, I learned that Craig was in his early 50s when he passed. Death is heartbreaking at any age and I was greatly relieved that the author was able to see her child grow into a man and that he was able to live a good portion of his life before his untimely departure. Yet, if I was a mother who had lost a young child and was hoping to read the wisdom of a mother who had also gone through these circumstances, I would feel misled by the book’s cover.
“Life, It’s a Beautiful Thing” was written to be a legacy of sorts, Schaufel’s heritage for her family. Yet, there are no pictures other than one single photograph of Craig as an adult. The stock images used didn’t seem appropriate for such personal recollections and warm stories. With descriptions so detailed and delightful, the included images took away from the reader’s experience instead of adding to it. I would have loved to see Craig as a child. Or is the child depicted on the front cover Craig? The inside cover doesn’t specify. I would have also loved to see the author pictured in one of her settings – a Pennsylvania coal town or as a young mother. Pictures from a stock photo company just don’t do her book justice.
The conclusion of “Life, It’s a Beautiful Thing” contains various scripture, advice on prayer, the Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, and other Christian writings. I thought the inclusion of three different versions of The Lord’s Prayer (New King James Version, King James Version, and New International Version) were unnecessary, though; one would have served as sufficient. Schaufel further adds several pages of short prayers that address certain requests, such as prayers for afflictions, healing, intercessory, and more to strengthen faith and one’s personal relationship with God.