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Book Review – Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope

While some elements of "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope are difficult to read - the book, overall, is an inspiring read. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

On Jan. 8, 2011 Gabrielle Giffords was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tuscon, Arizona when a deranged gunman walked up and shot her in the head. He then went on to kill six people and wound an additional 12. For some time after the shooting -no images of Gabrielle Giffords were issued. Given the severity of her wounds one can easily understand why. 

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope reverses that. Images of a severely wounded Giffords are pictured throughout. One of the more moving images included in the book is a picture of Giffords’ bed – with a Purple Heart medal placed on the side of it. It had been placed there by a veteran who had visited her. He is quoted as saying that she had earned it more than he had. 

After his wife was shot at a public event in Tucson, Arizona, Mark Kelly was widely criticized for continuing to lead the next-to-last shuttle flight of the shuttle program. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Former shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly is the dominant voice throughout the book and he never names the person that shot his wife. It takes a real he-man to gun down an unarmed nine-year-old. As such, I too, don’t feel his name needs mentioning, let’s just call him the alleged pink thong-wearing, gun-toting child murderer. All those descriptions are factually accurate – and apt. This person allegedly stopped at a Walgreens to have photos of himself wearing a thong and holding a Glock pistol developed just prior to his shooting spree. One of the people who died during the shooting rampage was a 9-year-old girl. 

During the lead up to the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour Mark Kelly had been given a lot of criticism for deciding to stay on and lead the mission. In the chapter WHAT WOULD GABBY WANT? The thought process behind both his decision to fly this mission as well as the rationale behind the publication of this book – come to light. 

Gabrielle Giffords was at the launch of STS-134 and is reported that after lift off she said simply - "Good stuff!" Photo Credit" Jason Rhian

It is surmised, and judging from Giffords’ general personality probably correct, that Giffords would not would have wanted this horrible incident to impact Kelly’s mission. Confirmation was given by Giffords herself (she attended the launch) when, upon the lift off of Endeavour, she said simply, “Good stuff!” Giffords words are throughout this book and it would appear that this book was written for two reasons. The first is that the events that surrounded the shooting should be discussed. Also, it is easy to sit on the sidelines and spout what you think should be done – this provides Kelly and Giffords to detail why they made the decisions that they did. 

There are sections of the book, however, that would have served better by their exclusion. Giffords was maimed, in a horrific fashion. There are elements of the book which discuss embarrassing moments in her recovery – that should not have been included. 

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope is, in large part, written in two intersecting parts. The first part details a part of Giffords’ formative years – and then that is used as a template for her life Congress and the shooting. This allows one to view this event through the perspective of Giffords’ life. 

After the completion of the STS-134 mission, Kelly retired from both the U.S. Navy and NASA. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Kelly also details parts of his life as well as some of the details that took place behind-the-scenes at NASA. Many of Kelly’s decisions during this time were hyper-criticized. Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope helps to provide a context as to what led to these decisions and the timing. 

In the days following the mass-murders of 9/11 we came together as one nation. This period, filled with hope for the future, lasted for only a short period. With the events of this shooting, our elected leaders once again came together. It seemed that we might be able to put the visceral anger of our segmented society behind us. 

When I posted an article about Giffords’ announcement that she would be retiring, I included the description of her as a “staunch supporter of NASA.” A commenter posted that this description was “disingenuous.” Why? Because Giffords had not supported Obama’s efforts to fundamentally change NASA. In essence, she couldn’t be a staunch supporter of NASA – because she actually dared to disagree with her fellow Democrats. It would appear, sadly, that we as a society still have a long way to go… 

While she served in Congress, Giffords worked to support human space flight efforts. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

I spotted “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope” in a local store and after seeing some of the images within – I felt that the book needed to be covered without reservation. Pictures of Gabrielle Giffords’ injuries, viewed using 3-D imagery obtained by CAT scan – seemed sensational and I thought the general public should not be privy to them. I needed more context and purchased a copy of the book to get the full story. In summation, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope is very well written – but it isn’t perfect and it isn’t for the squeamish.

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