Alive by Grace, Suzanne and Christopher Cavalier

Title: Alive by Grace, A Mother’s Story with A Message of Hope from Christopher

Author: Suzanne and Christopher Cavalier

Publisher: Christian Faith Pub 2018

Length: 108 pages.

Rating: 5/5 – Relentless account of a mother’s love and determination to see her baby son live. A short but essential read. My joint Book of the Year 2018. If any film producers read this I’ll be first in queue at cinema!

I had already chosen my Book of the Year for 2018 but I had to revise that after reading Alive by Grace. It is a short (about 100 pages) but intense testimony of twenty-two year old mother Suzanne Cavalier’s fight to give her newborn and extremely ill son Christopher the chance of life.

When born Christopher was so ill doctors took him away to intensive care before Suzanne could even hold him and he is given a two percent chance to live and diagnosed with CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia). What follows is a mother’s harrowing and utterly compelling account of countless hospital trips across America during her son’s first year of life while trying to get to grips with the medical world and the experimental treatment ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) which they hope will give her son the best chance of life. You can watch a short video clip here.

This book is an intense insight into Suzanne’s own inner world and a mother’s refusal to give up. There is no padding whatsoever in this story and while at times I actually wanted some just to be able to catch my breath I realised the story was so compelling precisely because it was so relentlessly intense.

The second half of the book is told by Christopher himself and his account of his own recollections and the difficulties he faced growing up. His is a genuinely insightful piece of writing and a window into the adult mind of the child whose fight for life you have just followed. The writing of Christopher’s section must have been highly emotive, reflective and profoundly questioning. Running through the book is a mother’s faith in God and a son’s love for this same Jesus, desiring his friends to know him as well.

I can’t imagine the trauma actually living this story involved. We also follow the difficulties of husband ‘Big Chris’ and his attempts to keep his job going in order to pay huge hospital bills and travel expenses while travelling large distances between work and hospitals and the strain this puts on the marriage.

We are introduced to frankly heroic medical staff particularly at Boston Children’s Hospital, and also the difficulties Suzanne faces when other staff at other hospitals are unaware of how to deal with Christopher’s condition, a mother’s instinct when something is wrong and her battles to convince medical staff of how they should treat her son. I found this aspect of the story particularly poignant. I was blown away by the strength and courage it must have taken to confront medical staff and effectively tell them how they should be treating your baby son when you must know you’re coming across as someone who knows better than they do and I’d imagine they didn’t like that much! Yet Suzanne’s inner conviction to stay the course must have been both rock solid and driven by an exhausted, pierced and fractured heart, yet one filled with unquenchable love and determination…and it is ultimately rewarded.

As stated above it’s a short book but it races along at breakneck speed and by the time I finished it I was, with Suzanne and Christopher, deeply grateful to God, to medical science and to the medical staff who worked tirelessly to give Christopher the best chance at life.

As I read this book and read/lived scene after scene I kept thinking this is crying out to be made into a film. It certainly deserves far more widespread attention and publicity

The book includes pictures of Christopher, his family and medical staff. You can read more and watch a few video clips including of Suzanne and Christopher themselves at website. Alive by Grace is now my joint Book of the Year for 2018! Highly recommended!

Review via NetGalley/BooksGoSocial ARC.

Rating: 5/5 – Essential Reading.

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