Reviewed by Krista Castner

Paula Coulter’s day started like most of her days in Minneapolis, but it certainly didn’t end normally. Paula and her family were driving over the I-35 West Bridge on August 1, 2007 when the bridge collapsed, dropping their car 65 feet to the riverbed below. The fall left Paula with devastating injuries.

Paula writes the story of her accident and recovery. She tells how her family used the website, CaringBridge to have a centralized point of information to update family and friends about her day-to-day condition, struggles and victories. In turn she and her family received words of encouragement and prayers from friends and family via the updates they posted on Paula’s CaringBridge page.

Hope Conquers All by Sona Mehring, the founder of CaringBridge, is a collection of stories like Paula’s written by people who have faced serious illnesses or catastrophic injuries, or by people who have a family member who has experienced a medical crisis. The various authors explain how CaringBridge lifted the burden of the time consuming task of communicating status updates individually to many people exactly when their time is so precious, and their stress levels are high.

CaringBridge is kind of a Facebook for the seriously ill. It’s a seemingly simple idea that keeps expanding to add new features and avenues of support for people in the midst of a health crisis. This book contains twenty-one personal stories from people in all walks of life, age ranges and health conditions. The stories describe their medical condition, their battle to overcome the situation and how CaringBridge had a positive impact on their battle. Most stories end with a quick tip about how to support the patient or their caregiver, or with an inspirational quote from a well-known author.

I found that reading a whole string of these stories in quick succession was a bit overwhelming. The conditions related are serious, and the medical approaches taken to cure or heal the patients are often described in great detail. The range of emotions that the patients and caregivers experienced are also often described in great detail. I was able to process the stories and appreciate the service that CaringBridge provides when I paced myself by reading a single story and then took time to reflect on that story before plunging right into the next drama.

I can’t decide if this book is supposed to be a marketing tool for CaringBridge, or a book of inspirational stories of love and healing as the book’s subtitle states. But even if it’s was written mainly as a way to market CaringBridge, the website certainly seems like a wonderful thing to promote.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided by Sona Mehring. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.