For the past few years I’ve shared my favorite reads from the previous years. Most of my reading from 2015 were books I reviewed, and there were some standouts.
Fiction Honorable Mention:
A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck
The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson
When Kings Clash by J.E. Lowder
Non Fiction Honorable Mention:
Grin with Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis
Product Honorable Mention (CD, Movie, other)
Exhale by Plumb
Let it Be Jesus by Christy Nockels
And now, my top picks.
Favorite Reviewed Product of 2015:
Favorite Non Fiction Reviewed Read of 2015:
Kelly Tough by Erin Kelly
Favorite Fiction Reviewed Read of 2015:
Burning Justice by Helena Smrcek
Please check out the links to find out how to purchase these. You won’t be disappointed!
Do not let the title Kelly Tough fool you. This is not a “be all you can be, no pain–no gain” story. Toughness is overrated. And being Kelly Tough, well, you are about to find out what that really means and why it just might matter to you.
Kelly Tough is a story of love and hope: a love between a father and a daughter—Buffalo Bill’s former quarterback, Jim Kelly, and his oldest daughter Erin. Erin shares a deeply personal account of the love a family can have for each other during the darkest times, and a greater love that a heavenly Father has for you.
Whatever circumstance or heartbreak you find yourself overwhelmed by right now, it is not the end of the story. In fact, it just might be one of the greatest chapters as you, like the Kelly’s, find strength in weakness, hope in the midst of heartache, and joy in spite of suffering.
Yesterday I shared why I wanted to review Kelly Tough. Today I share why it might be the best non fiction book for the year.
As soon as I opened the first pages, tears started to form. It’s more than the lovely remarks people made or the foreward by Peter King. I truly believe this book is covered with God’s fingerprints and anointing. It was something I could have highlighted nearly every page, several lines. It was more than a book about NFL quarterback Jim Kelly and his family or recent cancer treatments. It’s a book for all of us.
Kelly Tough is written by Jim’s oldest daughter, Erin, and his wife, Jill. Erin is in college now but writes with such authenticity and skill that I hope her future includes writing full time. She is generous with her memories and family experiences, even when they cloudy any image fans might have of the Kelly family. Thing is, she’s most generous with her faith. To have watched her beloved brother, Hunter, pass away, and then watch her dad battle cancer, you can tell through the grief and hard questions, she’s got a rock solid faith.
And no matter what your past or current situation, she wants you to consider having a solid faith in Christ, too.
Kelly Tough is something I want to aspire to as Erin shares many examples of what that means. It’s more than not quitting. It’s not just good manners that Jim instilled in the kids. You need to read what Kelly Tough embodies.
The book was inspiring, emotional, informational and one I’m still thinking about even though I closed the cover quite awhile ago. One tidbit I was so impressed by was Frank Reich, the backup quarterback for the Bills when Jim was active. I’d read about his faith years and years ago but Erin and Jill did a tremendous job showing what Christlike is all about. The man was a servant on the field, content to be in the shadows while Jim saw the activity and got the accolades. When Jim was in such pain from the cancer and treatment, many of his teammates and former opponents came to cheer and encourage Jim. But Frank? What a takeaway visual on how to walk the walk, so to speak.
There’s so much I want to say because I loved Kelly Tough that much. But it’s a book you need to read, whether you’re a football fan or not. I think you’ll be impressed by what Erin shares and how well she does. I sure was.
To purchase Kelly Tough, click here.
I received Kelly Tough from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Most everyone knows I’m from Upstate NY. Although my hometown is Corning, I received my BA from the State University of New York at Geneseo. It was 1990-92 when I was there.
The school for the most part was divided into two categories: Upstate NY and NYC/Long Island. Now remember the time frame. Come Superbowl time, it was the Buffalo Bills and NY Giants. Talk about a battle. No, not the football teams. My friends.
When it came down to that one kick that unfortunately didn’t give the Bills a win, my dorm shook. No lie. The uproar between upstate and downstate probably scored on the Reichter scale.
Those were the Jim Kelly years and Geneseo was close enough to Buffalo somehow as an Upstate-er I felt a connection. There were times we heard the players used our track or were on their way to party at the exact places we were at. We had friends of friends of friends who had been to parties. He was part of my college scene by association and again, with that Superbowl moment, embedded into my college memories for life.
It seemed fitting as I graduated and moved on, the Bills kind of faded as well, at least as far Superbowl invitations and national fanfare. I’d hear Jim Kelly news here and there but I was busy carving out my place in Upstate NY.
The next phase where I felt a connection was after college, after marriage, after children. I was evolving as a woman of faith—not as tied to approval as I once was, but still not where I am today. It was the darkest time of my life. My dad was dying. My husband was on the precipice of moving to Ohio for a new job. Our baby was still sick with multiple breathing issues that often had her hospitalized. I wasn’t healed from her near death and how it came at a doctor’s hand. I heard about a women’s luncheon at our local radio station where Jill Kelly would be sharing. I knew Jill was married to Jim and that they had the little boy, Hunter. I thought it would be a nice break to see what she had to say.
Jill’s testimony remains a spiritual marker in my life. As she shared life with Hunter she talked about how each ER visit to them could mean his last. Our situations were different yet I knew that fear she spoke of. How many ER trips we’d endured. Our pede even gave me his personal cell in case I needed it. He had to convince me she was going to live to see her first birthday. When Jill spoke, the grief imploded and I sobbed as she spoke. She was so honest about her past and where her faith was at that moment. Where Jim was at spiritually. Then she shared a verse that was helping her through it all—the therapies, the ER visits, caring for her daughters, encouraging Jim.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
I grabbed that verse and held on for dear life as we navigated more grief, sickness and change. I followed the headlines as Hunter left this world. I never forgot that verse. As our daughter stabilized I prayed for the Kelly family. I couldn’t even fathom the depth of their grief.
Fast forward and I then read about Jim’s cancer. I lifted up prayers and continued to follow headlines. When I read the cancer came back, I felt my gut drop. I wanted to do something for them, still remembering how Jill’s talk gave me the courage to move forward in faith. How so many great college memories were intertwined with Jim and the Bills. The only thing I could think of was to pray. I wrote one out on the Facebook page, returning that same verse to them in their great time of need.
During this time I saw Erin’s posts on social media. As difficult as her situation was, a young woman already fluent in grief, sharing their journey to encourage others. I saw such a gift in her writing and a maturity in her faith.
And here we are. Kelly Tough is Erin’s account of her life and faith and I want to say more than that, but I’ll wait for my review tomorrow. But for a family I’ve never met, somehow when I read the Kelly name, I always perked up.
And I think I always will.