By Ekta R. Garg
April 25, 2012
Rated: Borrow it
Written in honor of his sister’s resilience in life and as a tribute to their special sibling relationship, author Dave Constance penned Sammy Knows It All to share with the world his sister’s trials and how she has kept a positive attitude through them all. Constance’s easygoing life attitude comes through clearly, and the book (like its heroine) remains positive and even optimistic to the last page. But the book doesn’t completely live up to the genre it claims.
As military kids Dave and his sister, Wendy, spend their childhood living in a variety of places. Dave, the elder of the two siblings, recounts with great fondness in the book typical brother-sister encounters: wrestling and torturing each other one minute, being one another’s best friends the next. Considering the constant upheaval that comes with military life, Dave and Wendy enjoy a fairly normal childhood with good friends down the street and visits to grandparents.
A series of dramatic events marks Wendy’s life, however, and Wendy’s spirit throughout these events provides Dave with the impetus to write the book. Wendy and Dave are living in Germany and are running home one day when a car hits four-year-old Wendy. Miraculously she survives the impact with just cuts and bruises. At the age of 11 Wendy gets shot by a neighborhood child who was playing with a gun he didn’t know was loaded.
As an adult living in Washington State, Wendy survives a serious car accident in which her car skids on snow and ice and flips onto its roof. And later she is diagnosed with a brain tumor and undergoes surgery to remove a quarter of her brain, which severely impairs her memory retention. In addition to all this Wendy comes out as a lesbian and endures all the difficulties associated with such an event, and yet, as Dave says more than once, Wendy never loses her sense of humor or her sense of adventure.
Dave’s admiration for his sister never wanes, and he ends the book with a wish for Wendy to appear on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” But the entire book rests on Dave’s observations, his thoughts, and his feelings, and readers will close the short book wishing they had heard more from Wendy. Dave’s “tell” versus “show” technique will make readers feel like Sammy Knows It All is a conversation they overheard rather than a solid tribute to a woman who has endured a remarkable number of challenges and still wakes up every day with a smile on her face.
Had Dave spent more time letting Wendy shine through instead of sharing his impressions of her, the book would have impacted readers much more deeply. Instead, Sammy Knows It All doesn’t press into the readers’ hearts as a true memoir does. While the intention is honorable and good, the actual book barely leaves an impression.
The 20 pages of personal photos add a nice touch but would have better served the story spaced throughout the entire book instead of taking up such a huge chunk in the middle. For a book that doesn’t even hit 110 pages in paperback, making about 20 percent of the book nothing but pictures and then making all of those pictures run together deters from Dave’s story. Readers who want to “hear” that casual conversation between the writer and themselves might enjoy Sammy Knows It All, but I don’t think the end result does complete justice to the woman it honors.
What the ratings mean:
Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection. It’s definitely worth it!
Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Bypass it–Free time is precious. Don’t spend it on this book!