I wrote this book review for my original Overeducated Housewife blog on September 20, 2013. It appears here as/is.
As I mentioned in my last post, Epinions.com is going through some major changes right now that is going to make posting reviews, especially of self-published books, a big challenge. I like to review every book I read and I have found that the self-published books are often pretty good. They deserve to be reviewed. Hell, I find myself buying them as often or more often than books that have been vetted by big publishers.
So anyway, I just finished Roy E. Ice’s self-published book, Julie: The Courage to Breathe. This book, available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions, was published in March of 2013. I picked it up in June, when I had apparently gone on a tear buying books about cystic fibrosis. Though I don’t personally know anyone with CF, I have done some reading about this devastating genetic disease. A lot of advances have been made in the past decade or so in understanding and treating cystic fibrosis. Still, it remains a deadly, demanding disease that often kills people when they are very young.
Roy Ice explains that he met his wife, Julie, when they were teenagers. He fell in love with her, even though she had an annoying cough that she couldn’t seem to get rid of and seemed to get pneumonia very easily. She thought she had asthma. So did her doctors, even though when she was as young as five years old, she showed signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
Though Roy and Julie had met when they were in high school, it took a few more years before they dated. Ice married Julie when they still young adults. He’d done a stint in the military and served in Desert Storm/Desert Shield, then came home to Kentucky. Julie still had that irritating cough that would erupt at the most inopportune times. Roy would encourage Julie to stifle it because it often embarrassed him.
One day, about eight months into their marriage, Julie got very sick. Roy took his wife to the hospital, where a doctor tried to diagnose her yet again with pneumonia. Roy doubted that was the case and demanded that a pulmonologist examine Julie, much to the dismay of the internist who had incorrectly assumed that Julie had pneumonia once again. The lung specialist suspected cystic fibrosis and tested her. At age 23, Julie had tested positive for CF. At the time, most CF patients were dead before their 29th birthdays.
In a folksy, plainspoken way, with a generous smattering of humor, Ice writes about what it was like to find out his beloved wife had a deadly genetic disease. Cystic fibrosis is a very difficult disease to live with, though Julie’s case must have been relatively mild up until she got so sick at age 23. Roy had to learn how to pound on his wife’s tiny body to shake loose the thick mucous that forms in CF patients. He also had to learn how to be a good advocate for his wife, standing up to doctors and even leaving against medical advice when they didn’t seem interested in helping her.
When Julie was 41 years old, her body began to wear out. She needed a lung transplant. The fact that she had made it to 41 was, in and of itself, a miracle. But if she didn’t get new lungs, she would die. Ice explains how he and Julie ended up at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and Julie spent about three months waiting for her new lungs. Interestingly enough, Julie’s doctors passed over a number of lungs before Julie finally got them at around Christmas time in 2011. Apparently, a lot of organ donors in Kentucky are smokers.
For a self-published book, I think Julie: The Courage To Breathe is pretty damn good. Ice has an engaging writing style and his love for his wife is plainly evident. However, I would be lying if I said this book, as good as it is, is five star worthy. If I were basing my rating on the love story alone, it would rate five stars. But Ice’s book has a number of typos and editing glitches that weaken it somewhat. At one point, he references that Julie is in the hospital on December 14, 2012, which wasn’t even a year ago. But then a couple of pages later, the date is December 18, 2011. Obviously, 2012 was a typo that whoever was editing didn’t catch.
I read the Kindle version of this book. At the end, Ice includes a few photos of Julie, whose weight, by the time of her transplant, had dwindled down to 61 pounds. He mentions this fact several times, though it’s hard to really see what that means until you see a color photo of Julie post transplant, still looking really gaunt, but managing to smile. There’s another photo of her hooked up to a bunch of machines, but you don’t really get a sense of her physical frailty because she is surrounded by tubes and machines. There’s what appears to be another photo in my version of the book, but apparently it didn’t post properly; instead, there’s a tell-tale white box with a red X in it.
Also, Ice doesn’t give a whole lot of insight into what CF is and what it does to the body. His story is long on anecdotes, but a bit short on facts. I had read Frank Deford’s Alex: The Life of A Child and Anabel and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes’ book, The Power of Two, which is about twins with cystic fibrosis. Those two books were more informative about what CF is, so I already knew about that. Ice doesn’t include as much information about the actual disease, so those who know nothing about CF probably won’t learn much about it by reading this book.
I would love to see this book get reprinted after it’s been read by a good editor who can clean up the typos and glitches. It’s a story well worth reading. I was moved by Ice’s obvious love for his wife and his willingness to see her through such a devastating disease. Moreover, Roy and Julie just seem like a really nice couple. They appear to be people I’d like to know. All proceeds from this book will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is no doubt a very worthy cause.
Anyway, if I were posting this on Epinions, I’d give it a solid four stars. If the editing glitches were cleaned up, I’d give it five. I had a hard time putting this book down once I got started. You can read a news article about Julie and Roy Ice here. You can read about Julie’s “Dream Team” here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review. If Epinions doesn’t clean up its act soon, I may start putting all my book reviews here… or maybe start yet another blog…
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