Book Review: Miracles Among the Rubble
Miracles among the Rubble is sincerely unlike any book I have ever read. Written and edited by women, the book is a lyrical collection of stories from the life of the author, Carol R. Gray. This probably sounds overtly simple. And it is. Yet it isn’t. Because Carol was an adviser to the United Nations and the British Ministry of Defense during the Balkans crisis.
I feel like I can call her Carol. Usually when I review books, I use the author’s surname. But I feel like Carol was one of those truly remarkable people who is a friend to all. And think Carol would not mind if I called her by her first name. After all, in preparation for her first visit to war-torn Croatia in her aptly named “Convoy of Hope”, the only Croatian phrases she learned were “Volimo te. Ya vas volim.” Translated, these words mean, “We love you. I love you.” (14)
In the age of “humble brags”, Carol comes across as IS one of the most sincere and unpretentious authors I’ve had the opportunity to meet through only words. In her book, we learn about her quickly and simply. She believes in God. She is married. She has children. She has cancer. She does her best to think well of everyone. She thanks God and tries to follow what she feels are spiritual promptings. Emphasizing this last statement, she decided to deliver food, clothes, medicine, and water purifying machines to Bosnia and Croatia. Here she makes over thirty trips in as many years to Balkan war battle-worn refugee camps, eventually bringing books, musical instruments, hospital beds and more. Mostly, she brought love.
Each chapter is an independent essay. The book primarily includes chapters on her visits to and in refugee, but she includes additional chapters about her and her life. One such chapter tells us about her organization being donated an incredibly old truck that, while generous, she thought might not even make it to her house. She tells us about driving on the autobahn in Germany in a snow storm in a vehicle heavily laden with donations. She tells us about a tiny bit about her cancer diagnosis. And she shares with us her deathly fear of water as she faced crossing a pontoon bridge to make a delivery. But mostly, she tells you about the miracles she sees in others. I particularly enjoyed one chapter about a man who was well qualified to volunteer in her delivery convoy, yet insisted that he was not a hugging person, would not hug and would not be participating her any “huggy affairs.” (89). You can sense how this chapter ends. But because Carol looks for meaning and connection in every one she meets, you are still hooked on reading her words through to the end. And it is worth it.
Clearly, I recommend this book, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the book is easy to read and relatable. Though the author is a Latter-day Saint, she never pushes her beliefs on you, her goal is to serve and learn. It is pure. It is pure enough, in my opinion, for a general audience, not just an LDS audience. Secondly, I love that this author is not American. There. I said it. Look, I love American LDS authors. But I also crave reading and sharing the experiences of non-American Mormon women. I feel like their experiences teach me wonderfully unusual things about the church, the gospel and their lives. Thirdly, as a busy parent, or for those who are busy professionals, it can be difficult to carve out a moment to read an entire book. The chapters in this book are not long, making it similar to a collection of short stories on a theme. In this, it is achievable for busy readers to finish in their own time.
As I tend to pre-shop for Christmas, I have added this book to my list as a preferred gift. I think it is a good choice for women, men and even teens. Honestly, I like the idea of gifting it to men so they can see the power and humility of a woman who is determined to bring more love into the world. But I also know that my mother would love it (act surprised when you get it, Mum!). Miracles Among the Rubble is published by Greg Kofford Books. The paperback version can be purchased at Amazon for $17.95.