Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hard Times and Great Blessings

Hard Times and Great Blessings
Author: Kenneth F. Worth
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2308-8
Publisher: 2008
Reviewed by Sarah Moore for Writers in the Sky (9/08)

How many people have fascinating life stories, are even encouraged to share their experiences through the written word, but never follow through with the task of compiling a memoir? Author Kenneth Worth is one man who listened when others told him that he had a story worth sharing, and the result is the captivating memoir titled Hard Times and Great Blessings. In this short, but detail-rich, book, Mr. Worth relates a life filled with some moments to which almost any reader will be able to relate and other events that most can only begin to imagine.

Kenneth Worth was made an orphan two days after his eleventh birthday, when his mother killed his father and then took her own life. Worth and his brother were both asleep in the house when this tragic crime occurred and, even though they somehow slept through the sounds of the shots being fired, they were the ones who found their father lying in bed with, as Worth describes it, practically no head remaining. Obviously a tragic scene for two boys to witness, Worth does not spend much time reflecting on this day. The reader is left to wonder why Worth’s mother felt compelled to commit such a violent act. Was there mental illness? Untold abuse? Through the noticeable absence of such details, Worth lets the reader know that he did not allow his life to be consumed by the questions surrounding that day. Like Worth himself did, the reader must move on.

What Mr. Worth does focus on is the importance of relationships in his life. He writes with genuine emotion when sharing the love story that developed between him and his wife, Ruth. As he describes it, the two are joined at the hip and have been since their courtship started when the two were both teenagers. Now married for forty-eight years, the commitment between Kenneth and Ruth that remained through multiple job changes, personal illnesses, and family deaths is a testament to true love and partnership. Beyond his marriage, Worth also expresses his delayed appreciation for the grandparents who raised him following his parents’ death (he admits to a lack of gratefulness at the time), pride at the accomplishments of his two adult daughters, and respect for the in-laws who became surrogate parents and led him to his faith. Although Mr. Worth lost his mother and father at a young age, and in some ways that relationship can never be replaced, he certainly understands that he has a life richly filled with people who love and care for him.

Among the details Mr. Worth shares about his life, I greatly enjoyed the memories that he associates with the cars he has owned over his life. (He shows a particular affection for models developed by Ford.) He fondly remembers the car he was driving when taking his pregnant wife to the hospital, the one that got him to a new city as he searched for a home for his growing family, and several others. I found that the inclusion of these cars, down to the make, model and color, added another way in which readers could relate to Worth’s story. I always smile when I see a Ford Escort that reminds me of my high school boyfriend, remember the crayons that melted in the back of my dad’s 1978 Honda Civic, and cringe when I think about the car I was driving when rear-ended by a drunk driver. Don’t many of us associate cars with events in our life—a uniquely American mindset?

Through his military service in Vietnam with a young bride left at home, administrative civilian positions that took him to many areas of the country, the recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, and his wife’s own health problems, Kenneth Worth acknowledges the constant strength that his Christian faith has provided. He takes time throughout the book to remind the reader that God is always working in his life, even when the circumstances seemed bleak. Worth focuses on the blessings he has received and encourages his readers to do the same. A man who lost his parents to violent deaths when he was just a child certainly could find reason to go through his days filled with resentment, but instead Kenneth Worth serves as a model of how an optimistic outlook can improve one’s life. What a great lesson for every reader of his book to learn!

Through Hard Times and Great Blessings, first-time author Kenneth Worth shares an amazing life story that inspires and encourages. I certainly hope that Mr. Worth plans on writing more in the future, as he mentions so many events in his life that could each be worthy of its own publication. And, perhaps Kenneth Worth’s decision to share his life story will encourage some of his readers to do the same.


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