Review of SUNBREAKS IN UNENDING STORMS: Understanding Invisible Disabilities, How to Thrive There, and How to Help by Carole & FJ Griffitts

As you probably have guessed, I am not a trained medical health professional. What I am is a mom, a mimi, a retired teacher, a lover of nature and of music, as well as, someone living with chronic illnesses. I share my journey to provide some insight and hopefully ideas that may be helpful to others dealing with similar issues. Always, consult with your doctor before trying anything new.

At the top, a sun rise shining through the clouds. Beneath, a orange, brown background with lightening coming from clouds over a black city scape.  The title text in white and yellow: My Review of Sunbreaks in Unending Storms: Understanding Invisible Disabilities, How to Thrive There, and How to Help by Carole and FJ Griffitts

I received an ARC of this book to read this past spring; I agreed to review it, but I did not agree to any type of review.  This is not a book I would generally pick up to read, but I sure am glad that I did.  I’ve purchased my own copy to refer back to.

Teal and white drawn lotus/waterlily

Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC)

I “met” Carole via a chronic illness blogging group, of which we’re both members. I began to read her blog posts, which are sincere and full of wisdom. Through a few comments I left on her posts, we began a dialogue. When Carole was looking for readers for the book that she and her husband Joe, referred to FJ in the book, wrote together, I sent her a message that I would love to be a reader.

However, I knew once she responded that she would be sending it to me as soon as the Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) was ready, I began to question if I could do it. If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been sporadic in getting posts done. Sometimes it’s due to life getting in the way of having the time, but during this time, it was because I was really, really struggling with writing.

With Fibromyalgia, I have found the greatest thing that stops me from doing what I would like is a heavy fog that fills my brain and doesn’t let me do much more than stare into space. I was experiencing this when I received Carole’s acceptance.

Carole in a power wheelchair on a wooden bridge.  Background of clouded lightening storm with sun rise and blue skies opening up.

Chronically Delayed

After not hearing back from Carol for a few months, I forgot about my commitment. During that time, the steps I had taken to get out of my fogged-up funk, began to turn my life around. As I am writing this, I have had a good month of very little foggy brain.

In May, I received an email telling me that the ARC was ready to read. Carole was dealing with an ongoing infection that wouldn’t fully clear up, delaying the publishing process. This is all a part of Carole’s ongoing journey with chronic illness. And to be honest, she and Joe have weathered so many more storms than I can even fathom. Yet, they pushed through to publish this very insightful book that aims to give a realistic understanding of what it’s like to have chronic illness and how it impacts those around you, especially your closest companion.

Orange, yellows, black, blue colors depict a background of lightening and sun peaking through the skies.  Centter: a photo from 40 years ago of Carole and FJ, arms around each other, flanked by their two sons.

Carole and Joe (FJ)

FJ met Carole for the first time on a blind double date with friends in 1965. Two months later he asked her to marry him. During the six months apart while FJ was on temporary duty in the air force, they drew closer through sharing their thoughts on life, love, and family with letters that they exchanged. Soon after his return, they set the wedding date of July 16, 1966.

In the next few years, they became parents of two boys, Tom and Bill, while moving from military to ministry life. While they scraped by financially, Carole and FJ were focused on their family and faith. Life was FULL of love, humor, friendship, and outdoor adventures.

However, that easy, carefree life ended in September 1978 when Carole developed ongoing pain and severe weakness. Their unending storm had begun. But like so many of us with chronic illness, they didn’t expect that it would last or evolve to what it is today.

Carole went from being a very active woman, wearing many different hats, to one that struggled to even do the basics of self-care. FJ became her main caregiver alongside his job as pastor of a church. Together, they have spent 40-years in unending health storms (both Carole’s and his).

Orange, yellows, black, blue colors depict a background of lightening and sun peaking through the skies.  Center is image of the book's cover.

Book Summary

Carole and FJ and the other interviewed families who are dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses share their journeys without sugarcoating things. However, they also don’t despair and crawl into a depressive hole.  I identify with that.  Their stories are hard to witness one hardship after another, yet they also show that they still find meaning and purpose in whatever way they are able. 

Carole and FJ compare living with invisible chronic illness to the onset of unending storms. The book is divided into three sections: Explaining the Storms, Navigating Storms, and Responding to Storms.

Bringing the reader into their homes, we witness how each family finds solutions to day in day out chronic illness issues that aren’t often talked about. Through honest discussions about the emotions from both the sick family member and the caretaker, the book explores the impact of invisible disabilities on relationships with family and friends.

One section deals solely with handling the medical aspect of living with chronic illness. Through Carole’s experience, we see how someone desperately trying to figure out what’s going on can be tossed and turned around by medical providers. Her (and FJs) 40 years of experience, demonstrates how important it is to trust one’s own instincts and push for answers.

While the storms are unending and often very tumultuous, each story shows how they persevere by diving into the deepest meaning of life and its purpose. Carole and FJ’s faith is very important to them, and they share much about their experience (good and not so) in the church as Carole’s illness ramped up.  Through this, each finds sunbreaks and rainbows along the way that fortifies their resolve.

Orange, yellows, black, blue colors depict a background of lightening and sun peaking through the skies.  Center, image of Carol in a wheel chair being pushed by her son down a path through a field.

What Stood Out to Me

I love how the book is woven together with the metaphor of storms/weather. Carole and FJ each tell sections of the same story from their own point of view, the person living with chronic illness and the caregiver. Then they also incorporate a third-person narrator who kind of looks in and gives a scene, giving the reader the feeling they are witnessing the story for themselves. 

I really enjoyed the opening text/quote to each chapter and how they gave insight into the upcoming chapter. The only thing I wish they would have added would be some photos to make the stories become even more real.  Some of the things they share seem almost too impossible for a person/a couple to bear.

I kept hoping for one of those magical endings, which I knew wouldn’t happen because I met Carole through her blog. If you know Carole from her posts, then you know her story to a degree already. However, I learned so much more about all she has gone through and is still dealing with.  Yet, she still publishes posts, and she and her husband wrote this book.  

The last chapter for HOW to deal with chronic illness (and how caretakers and those who want to help can realistically do that) is the crux that most readers will want to jump to. I found it very insightful and practical.

While the topic of faith is an integral part of this book, I found Carole and FJ’s approach to be understanding and inclusive. Allowing someone like myself, who might bristle at the talk of Christianity, to not feel disconnected.

My Recommendation

Sunbreaks in Unending Storms: Understanding Invisible Disabilities, How to Thrive There, and How to Help is invaluable to both the dweller of the storm and the observer of the storm because it shows not only what to anticipate, but how to navigate through the turbulence of invisible chronic illness. In addition, this is a must-read guide for those wanting to create volunteer groups (say in their church or community) to help those living with chronic illnesses. 

You can find this book in both paperback and e-book Amazon: Sunbreaks in Unending Storms by Carole and FJ Griffitts. If you would like to connect with Carole via her blog, check out: Navigating The Storms: Thriving in the Midst of Invisible Disability and her new website: Sunbreaks Books.


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I am committing to posting once a week by Friday.  However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body, and I cannot follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.



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4 thoughts on “Review of SUNBREAKS IN UNENDING STORMS: Understanding Invisible Disabilities, How to Thrive There, and How to Help by Carole & FJ Griffitts

  • August 6, 2021 at 11:02 am
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    Fantastic review! It’s always nice to read a great review before purchasing a book! I can’t wait to get me copy.. I just ordered it! Thank you!

    Reply
  • August 6, 2021 at 9:04 pm
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    Thank you for sharing your review about this book! Carole and Joe are amazing, wonderful people (I’ve interviewed her as well before on my blog!).

    Reply
  • August 9, 2021 at 12:11 am
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    Fantastic review, Katie! I look forward to reading this and I enjoyed your comments about Carole and Joe!

    Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 8:42 am
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    Thank you for sharing this book and providing such a detailed review. I can already relate to so many points that are spoken about. Chronic illness can make you feel like such a burden on those around you and as we’ve spoken about before, it’s so important to advocate for yourself. You can so easily get transferred from one doctor to another without any answers or treatment.

    Reply

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