By Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark (Howard Books, 2011)
I would like to write two separate reviews for this book. And that frustrates me.
The first review would be a full and complete endorsement.
The second review would be less favorable.
But I just don’t do “less favorable” very well, so instead I’m going to write a review on the book I read and a review on the book I WANTED to read.
Kisses From Katie – the book I read:
The beauty of Kisses From Katie is the story itself. I’ve followed Katie’s blog for a couple of years. At 19 years old, Katie chose the life of an adoptive single mom in Uganda over the life of a single college student in the United States. She does this at great cost to her family relationships (specifically her parents) and her romantic future with her then boyfriend. Instead, on what was supposed to be a one-year stay in Uganda to teach in an orphanage, Katie adopts six little girls within just a few months. Today, Katie is a mother to fourteen.
I assign Katie’s blog to my composition students for reading responses because her story is rife with challenging ideas. It is easy, on the one hand, to be inspired. It is also easy, on the other, to find Katie’s story somewhat out of reach. My students wrestle with her unconventional decision to adopt as a single woman. They argue over whether she could have lived a similarly God-pleasing life from the safer boundaries of her Tennessee neighborhood. They wonder if they could ever possess the selflessness they see in Katie’s life. These are great questions for first-year college students to consider.
For me, there is so much to love about this story. Katie owns an impulsive and brave spirit that allows her to make life-changing decisions in a moment. I envy that. Her heart for the poor, the sick, and the orphaned stir me to some kind of action. As a married mother of four, my story can’t look exactly the same, but I find courage in Katie’s story to challenge my own comfortable ideals and plans for the future. For these reasons, I highly recommend this book.
In Uganda They Call Me Mommy – the book I wanted to read: (new title, yes)
I think most of my problems with the first book (the one I actually read because it is published) are with the writing and presentation. There are so many things I would have done differently. I haven’t read any reviews that even mention these points, so maybe I’m being too critical. It just seems to me that an amazing story deserves to be well told. Was this a rush job on the publishing end because the topic is hot right now? Probably. Did that treatment serve the story well? No.
Here are the best parts of the Katie Davis book I WANTED to read:
1. The story is told like a novel. It begins in the yellow convertible of Katie’s American lifestyle as a typical teenager and moves us along bravely to the rusty motorbike bouncing over the dirt streets of Uganda. The prose is tight and image-rich. As a reader, I am gutted by the differences in Katie’s two worlds and sometimes shocked by her selfless but possibly reckless choices.
2. The narrator answers questions that aren’t already addressed on Katie’s blog. We hear the conversations between Katie and her frustrated parents. We see the officials who describe what it requires to adopt little girls even as someone who has very recently been one herself. We meet the boy she loves and we love him too, so that when he isn’t in the picture anymore we actually care. As readers, we share in the emotional life of Katie not just her thought life. Not just in the words she wants us to hear but in the words she never says but we feel just by watching.
3. The book isn’t preachy at all; it lets the story stand on its own as a testament to faith and bravery. We feel stronger just by reading it. We close the pages, sad to part with a new world and a very special family, and we look out onto our own horizons looking for our Uganda, our little girls, our places of service. We close the book and we don’t stop at admiration of one person but we move into action ourselves. Not because we feel guilty but because we feel called.
And THAT is the book I wanted to read. Maybe we’ll still see that book someday after the dust has settled and a little more life has been lived. I hope so. It’s really going to be a good one.
And this one is good, too, but it isn’t that one.
*Read more about Katie on the Amazima website or in this Christianity Today interview (this one actually answers some of those questions left out of the book).