Joni: An Unforgettable Story – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni an Unforgettable Story Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada, Joe Musser
Also by this author: God Made Me Unique: Helping Children See Value in Every Person, The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: A True Story about Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All
Published by Zondervan on November 16, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
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four-half-stars

One of the most beloved Christian autobiographies of modern times, Joni highlights the unforgettable story of a young woman's courageous struggle to find hope after a broken neck left her completely paralyzed.
On a hot July afternoon, Joni Eareckson Tada's life was dramatically altered in a split second. A reckless dive into shallow water took an athletic young woman from health and success to life as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. In the forty-five years since the release of this book--which has more than five million copies in print in over forty languages--Joni's earnest struggle to find hope has resonated with millions of readers around the world. The hard-earned truths she shares in this special edition reveal the power of God's love to transform, as well as the triumph of faith over pain and suffering.
Joni's message has inspired people facing all types of challenges, helping them overcome their own limitations with a determined smile. In this updated edition, you will discover how to stay satisfied in God through disappointment and affliction. Filled with practical insights, Joni will help you find hope in every hardship.
This commemorative 45th anniversary edition features updated photos, as well as an all-new afterword in which Joni describes her current battle against two different cancers, her daily struggle with chronic pain, and the joys of leading a global outreach to people living with disability.

It’s been 45 years since Joni Eareckson Tada’s eponymous memoir, Joni: An Unforgettable Story, was first published by Zondervan in 1976, just seven years after the injury that left her paralyzed from the neck down. At the time, the subtitle was just good marketing—or maybe it was prophetic. In the years since its publication, Joni has truly been an unforgettable story. Even though Joni Eareckson Tada has gone on to do so much through Joni and Friends and Joni’s House, through her disability advocacy, through her other books, through her testimony, and so much more, it’s this book and this part of the story that has entranced millions for almost half a century.

I really appreciate how Tada has allowed this story to remain almost unchanged through the years. People change and their perspective on things change and how they would talk about things change. There must be points in Joni that Tada looks back on and thinks “Wow, I wouldn’t write it like that today.” And it would be easy to make those changes and revise those memories—but then it wouldn’t be the same book. It would be a 70-year-old looking back with nearly 50 years of wisdom and experience, and not the young girl in her mid-20s who, despite writing a book, was still figuring everything out. I read stuff that I wrote ten years ago and I’m not sure I want people reading it because so much of how I would express myself has changed. The willingness to let Joni be exactly what it is and not try to change it is a testament to Tada’s authenticity and vulnerability and it’s absolutely beautiful.

Starting a review like this may make it sound like there’s things in this book that Tada should be embarrassed by or places where she’s wrong about something. That’s not the case at all. It’s simply that Joni reads like it’s from the 1970s written by a woman in 20s. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because that’s exactly what it is, but having not read the book since I was a kid, I sort of expected the book to sound like a grown-up wrote it. Instead, what you get is the voice of young woman in her 20s, freshly recounting a devastating change in her life, and as of yet unsure where it’s going—only knowing that it’s going with God.

At the same time, readers now read Joni with the context of the 45 years since the book was published. We know where the story went. We know that this is only the first couple of chapters of what has been a long and storied legacy in Joni Eareckson Tada’s life. (And if you don’t know those things, Tada has been a new afterword that succinctly brings you up to date.) Reading Joni in this context is almost like reading a prequel in a series you’ve loved for years. Joni ends in 1975 with Joni speaking at a Youth for Christ event where she is about to speak about her journey of learning to rejoice in suffering. The book ends with these words: “I will be pleased if only one person is drawn to Christ. Even one person would make the wheelchair worth all that the past eight years have cost.”

Over the years, Joni Eareckson Tada has been privileged to have made her wheelchair worth it over and over and over again. We’ve seen her tenacity and perseverance. We’ve seen her relentless hope and optimism. We’ve seen how the young girl from the cover has allowed God to guide her life and affected millions as a result. It truly has been an unforgettable story.

four-half-stars