My Thoughts: There probably are not many of us who have not heard of the pint-sized, gold-medal-winning gymnast who won over the heart of America at the 2008 Olympic Games. If her name is not familiar from the sport that she excels at, then you probably “met” her on the eighth season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (which she also won). This book is a journal of sorts that she has written for her fans about her life so far – her growth in maturity and her faith; the lessons life has taught her and getting back to the place where she is more happy – and healthy. It is rare that I read books in which the celebrity name emblazoned on the front shares their life’s story. My tastes seem more suited to fiction but I do not regret having read this book in the least. Not knowing much about Shawn’s private life so much as her professional one (even that is limited), I enjoyed getting to “know” her as a person and not a mere celebrated figure who’s spotlight was made bright by her appearance at the Olympics – and subsequently her gold-medal win. If you’ve followed this athlete, I’d wager that in reading this, you will learn a lot of things about Shawn you didn’t know. Some that may even surprise you.
Perhaps the most insightful parts of this book are Shawn’s profession about her family’s faith – their belief in God but infrequent church attendance. Biblically, we are told that Christianity is a hard maintain without gathering with others at Sunday services but I don’t believe that someone cannot have a genuine relationship with Christ if they don’t attend church. Within these pages, Shawn shares about her growing faith in a heartfelt way that makes the reader believe she enjoys nothing less than a daily walk with Him. Raised with the “basic” knowledge of Christianity (she writes about her parents being strong Christians), it wasn’t until she was a teen that Shawn began to crave knowing her Savior more than as just the God she was taught was the Creator – she wanted to actually know Him. I found this a really hard read to get “into.” I was impressed with its easy writing style – Shawn is in fact, a poet (the style was simple with favorite quotes opening each chapter and ‘lessons learned’ to close) but it seemed I had to push myself to read more than a chapter or two at a time. That first 70-some pages were such a challenge because much of its focus is in gymnasts terms – the techniques they use and what makes a perfect performance – and although everything is explained, I found myself more confused than not. Given that, I was surprised that the last third of the novel went so quickly – before I knew it, I had basically read the rest of the book in one afternoon. And let me tell you, I enjoyed every minute of it.
To be honest had Tyndale (thanks!) not offered this novel, I am not sure I’d have read this in the foreseeable future. It was a joy to read and to feel a renewed sense of excitement and pride at the prospect to again root for Shawn at the upcoming summer Olympics. Unfortunately – and ironically, just the day after I finished reading this, Shawn announced she wouldn’t be at the London Games to compete; her knee injury wouldn’t allow it. Good for her! No matter how fun it may have been to root for the girl who was once told she had no talent in her sport, I also respect that she knows her body – and is actually listening to what it is telling her. In Winning Balance, Shawn shares everything from her struggles to maintain a healthy image, what it was like to be in Hollywood at DWTS (a section I particularly liked, of course *grin*) and its affect on her, the emotional support of her prince charming (a college football athlete), trials of the travel her engagements demanded and that at heart, she is a country girl from small-town Iowa. Anyone who followed her career, or likes a good read will find this book worth their time. Its ‘winning’ story makes it one fabulous read.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing this copy for reviewing purposes