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Walking Through Fire: A Memoir of Loss and Redemption

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The astonishing, Job-like story of how an existence filled with loss, suffering, questioning, and anger became a life filled with shocking and incomprehensible peace and joy. Vaneetha Risner contracted polio as an infant, was misdiagnosed, and lived with widespread paralysis. She lived in and out of the hospital for ten years and, after each stay, would return to a life fil The astonishing, Job-like story of how an existence filled with loss, suffering, questioning, and anger became a life filled with shocking and incomprehensible peace and joy. Vaneetha Risner contracted polio as an infant, was misdiagnosed, and lived with widespread paralysis. She lived in and out of the hospital for ten years and, after each stay, would return to a life filled with bullying. When she became a Christian, though, she thought things would get easier, and they did: carefree college days, a dream job in Boston, and an MBA from Stanford where she met and married a classmate. But life unraveled. Again. She had four miscarriages. Her son died because of a doctor's mistake. And Vaneetha was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, meaning she would likely become a quadriplegic. And then her husband betrayed her and moved out, leaving her to raise two adolescent daughters alone. This was not the abundant life she thought God had promised her. But, as Vaneetha discovered, everything she experienced was designed to draw her closer to Christ as she discovered "that intimacy with God in suffering can be breathtakingly beautiful."


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The astonishing, Job-like story of how an existence filled with loss, suffering, questioning, and anger became a life filled with shocking and incomprehensible peace and joy. Vaneetha Risner contracted polio as an infant, was misdiagnosed, and lived with widespread paralysis. She lived in and out of the hospital for ten years and, after each stay, would return to a life fil The astonishing, Job-like story of how an existence filled with loss, suffering, questioning, and anger became a life filled with shocking and incomprehensible peace and joy. Vaneetha Risner contracted polio as an infant, was misdiagnosed, and lived with widespread paralysis. She lived in and out of the hospital for ten years and, after each stay, would return to a life filled with bullying. When she became a Christian, though, she thought things would get easier, and they did: carefree college days, a dream job in Boston, and an MBA from Stanford where she met and married a classmate. But life unraveled. Again. She had four miscarriages. Her son died because of a doctor's mistake. And Vaneetha was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, meaning she would likely become a quadriplegic. And then her husband betrayed her and moved out, leaving her to raise two adolescent daughters alone. This was not the abundant life she thought God had promised her. But, as Vaneetha discovered, everything she experienced was designed to draw her closer to Christ as she discovered "that intimacy with God in suffering can be breathtakingly beautiful."

30 review for Walking Through Fire: A Memoir of Loss and Redemption

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This book is remarkable. It is honest and raw, yet filled with hope and joy. I laughed and I cried. Vaneetha's story is at times heartbreaking, but her joy and amazing sense of humor are palpable throughout the book. Vaneetha's memoir will provide inspiration and hope to all who read it, but throughout you'll be aware that she is a real woman with real struggles. I particularly appreciated that she was forthright with her struggles as a parent of teenage daughters. Vaneetha doesn't set herself u This book is remarkable. It is honest and raw, yet filled with hope and joy. I laughed and I cried. Vaneetha's story is at times heartbreaking, but her joy and amazing sense of humor are palpable throughout the book. Vaneetha's memoir will provide inspiration and hope to all who read it, but throughout you'll be aware that she is a real woman with real struggles. I particularly appreciated that she was forthright with her struggles as a parent of teenage daughters. Vaneetha doesn't set herself up as a mentor or teacher or expert, she shares real struggles and failures, raw conversations, and honest questions. Read this book. Be encouraged. Be inspired. Be reminded that God loves you and will never leave you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    What a powerful memoir. Risner leans heavily in her faith. She has needed that conviction to carry her through very dark times. Debilitating health issues, death of a child, a cheating spouse, and angry daughters, she survived it all. I read this book after having a frustrating day, but nothing compared to what she has endured. Although physically weak, she has been very strong. I think she was too kind To forgive her lout of an ex husband, but that's her business. If anyone thinks they have it What a powerful memoir. Risner leans heavily in her faith. She has needed that conviction to carry her through very dark times. Debilitating health issues, death of a child, a cheating spouse, and angry daughters, she survived it all. I read this book after having a frustrating day, but nothing compared to what she has endured. Although physically weak, she has been very strong. I think she was too kind To forgive her lout of an ex husband, but that's her business. If anyone thinks they have it horrible, read this book, you'll be hard pressed to beat what the author has experienced. Thanks to Edelweiss and Thomas Nelson for the early read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alanna Linden

    Part way thru and love that a book this easy to read has so much depth. This is a true story and great memoir.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book is a compulsive read that had me lamenting and praising in turn. I started the book at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, and other than a break to refill my coffee cup, I didn't move from my chair until I turned the last page around 3 in the afternoon. This is a story of how God gives and takes away and gives again in the author's life, and it's a story of the goodness and glory of God himself through every step of her journey. Preorder a copy today and add it to your TBR pile! (Note: My rev This book is a compulsive read that had me lamenting and praising in turn. I started the book at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, and other than a break to refill my coffee cup, I didn't move from my chair until I turned the last page around 3 in the afternoon. This is a story of how God gives and takes away and gives again in the author's life, and it's a story of the goodness and glory of God himself through every step of her journey. Preorder a copy today and add it to your TBR pile! (Note: My review is based on an advance copy of the proofs that I received from the publisher. I received no remuneration of any kind for this review.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Burton

    Although she lived a life that was full of trials and suffering, Vaneetha shows us what it means to grieve with hope. Invaluable to anyone who is walking through a difficult time or knows someone who is.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Captivating, Encouraging, and Challenging Just finished listening to the audio version of this book, read by the author, as I await my pre-ordered hard copy of the title. What a privilege to be drawn into this compelling and transparent journey of Vaneetha’s life, as she walks her readers through the deep physical, emotional, and spiritual valleys she has experienced. And what joy can be found in the faithful and sovereign God who meets her in her suffering, walks with her, carries her, and gives Captivating, Encouraging, and Challenging Just finished listening to the audio version of this book, read by the author, as I await my pre-ordered hard copy of the title. What a privilege to be drawn into this compelling and transparent journey of Vaneetha’s life, as she walks her readers through the deep physical, emotional, and spiritual valleys she has experienced. And what joy can be found in the faithful and sovereign God who meets her in her suffering, walks with her, carries her, and gives her strength, perseverance, and hope in the midst of her pain and sorrow. This work is raw, vulnerable, and poignant, yet offers great encouragement to fellow sufferers as well as those who come alongside those who are suffering. A helpful book to keep on hand, and buy a few extra to give to those in your life who are hurting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Tsipouras

    We often hear "Your suffering is small compared to..." and don't draw any comfort from it. In this case it's true. I can not imagine going through all Vaneesha went through and still be happy and still trust in God. It's an impressive and honest memoir that makes you feel for her and makes you see our own problems in a different light. We often hear "Your suffering is small compared to..." and don't draw any comfort from it. In this case it's true. I can not imagine going through all Vaneesha went through and still be happy and still trust in God. It's an impressive and honest memoir that makes you feel for her and makes you see our own problems in a different light.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Vaneetha is a very strong woman. I am glad that she moved on from her first husband. I appreciate her ability to keep her faith and deal with all the heartbreak in her life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ashlyn

    Highly recommend this book. Full of honesty and vulnerability. Vaneetha’s story really tugged on my heart and made me cry at times. I was especially touched by how she grieved honestly through all of the pain and heartbreak she’s experienced. Such a strong testimony of the Lord's work in her life. I learned so much from her story. What it looks like to be honest and raw with emotions, how to lament, the importance of scripture memory, and what forgiveness practically looks like. Highly recommend this book. Full of honesty and vulnerability. Vaneetha’s story really tugged on my heart and made me cry at times. I was especially touched by how she grieved honestly through all of the pain and heartbreak she’s experienced. Such a strong testimony of the Lord's work in her life. I learned so much from her story. What it looks like to be honest and raw with emotions, how to lament, the importance of scripture memory, and what forgiveness practically looks like.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Reyna

    What a life. If you are suffering from any kind of illness, pain, or loss, the best I can do for you is to encourage you to meet other christian people who suffer, but the ones who suffer well, with faith, founded on the Rock, Christ and His Word. Otherwise you may pass out and you will want to quit, thinking that you are "the only person in the world" who has so many "problems" or pain. Vaneetha has been a lovely example for me from through the distance and even when she doesn´t know me I feel What a life. If you are suffering from any kind of illness, pain, or loss, the best I can do for you is to encourage you to meet other christian people who suffer, but the ones who suffer well, with faith, founded on the Rock, Christ and His Word. Otherwise you may pass out and you will want to quit, thinking that you are "the only person in the world" who has so many "problems" or pain. Vaneetha has been a lovely example for me from through the distance and even when she doesn´t know me I feel that I love her. Since her book "The scars that have shaped me" I have felt her as a friend living in another country so far away, and I´m the one who prays for her through the distance. This book is a bit different because it is like an autobiography, you will find more details of how it got to where it stands today. Personally, I enjoyed "The scars that have shaped me" a lot and this one helped me to understand how that process and what lead her to where she is today. I am grateful to God for Vaneetha's life and everything she shares encourages me to think that her existence has an eternal and glorious purpose, even in the lives of people like me, whom she will never meet, and she has encouraged and shared hope in the middle of chaos. Her pain has a purpose, at least for me, and her fidelity in the midst of tears, valleys, and loneliness too. I would love to meet her one day and give her a very strong hug, and simply say: thank you, for being with me in my room, in bed, in the midst of my own tears, illness, heartbreak, and pain. Thanks for writing, for being there. Allowing God to break you will bear fruit. This book is a gift for people who love Christ and want to remain faithful even though everything seems to collapse around them. Consider getting this book even if you are not walking through fire right now, because someday the most certain thing is that you will. I hope they will translate it into Spanish soon, one of my dreams is to help translate some of the books that I review in English first and that I like, inspire or encourage.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    It did not take long to get into the book. Once that happened I had to keep reading. Vaneetha has experienced loss beginning with polio as a child. She continues to live with the effects of polio. She experienced the death of her infant son from a heart defect. Then the hurt of betrayal in her marriage. In this book, she shares the losses that she has experienced but also the joy and blessings from the Lord. She shares her struggles. She does not write as a victim but as a victor. She admits to It did not take long to get into the book. Once that happened I had to keep reading. Vaneetha has experienced loss beginning with polio as a child. She continues to live with the effects of polio. She experienced the death of her infant son from a heart defect. Then the hurt of betrayal in her marriage. In this book, she shares the losses that she has experienced but also the joy and blessings from the Lord. She shares her struggles. She does not write as a victim but as a victor. She admits to times when she reacted and needed to apologize. She learned to lament and take the pain to God. I found this book so encouraging for me personally. My pain and loss is different but seeing how she trusts God and praises him encourages me to do the same. Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this book to review. The review and opinion is all my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    I read this book in one sitting, alternating between laughter and pouring tears. I had read Vaneetha's other book and was excited to get this one as well. I'm so thankful Vaneetha found her vulnerability and shared it with all who would stop to hear. I'm thankful for her tenacious faith. Mostly I'm thankful for who she is and who Jesus has made her to be and that she shares with the world. I wondered if my pain was too small to matter compared with Vanessa's, but her kindness and faith level the g I read this book in one sitting, alternating between laughter and pouring tears. I had read Vaneetha's other book and was excited to get this one as well. I'm so thankful Vaneetha found her vulnerability and shared it with all who would stop to hear. I'm thankful for her tenacious faith. Mostly I'm thankful for who she is and who Jesus has made her to be and that she shares with the world. I wondered if my pain was too small to matter compared with Vanessa's, but her kindness and faith level the ground because she stands at the feet of the cross (where the level ground makes us all equal and means anyone can access it).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Georgia Herod

    Risner vulnerably and candidly shares her life story that has been full of suffering, pain and loss, but also deep joy and redemption, as she has submitted herself to her loving Father God. In spite of having walked through the death of an infant son, disease (polio and post-polio syndrome), and divorce, she not only emerges through each, but she does so triumphantly--and makes it her goal to encourage others and give hope in the midst of whatever trials they may face. I first encountered Vanee Risner vulnerably and candidly shares her life story that has been full of suffering, pain and loss, but also deep joy and redemption, as she has submitted herself to her loving Father God. In spite of having walked through the death of an infant son, disease (polio and post-polio syndrome), and divorce, she not only emerges through each, but she does so triumphantly--and makes it her goal to encourage others and give hope in the midst of whatever trials they may face. I first encountered Vaneetha Risner through her blog, “Dancin’ in the Rain,” and eagerly read her memoir. I finished reading with renewed faith in the God who loves and heals His broken children.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Murray

    It seems I usually can find SOME meaning in anyone's story of loss, something to help me in my own life. This book was no exception. The author was raw and honest and her story was hard to put down. Her faith is admirable and her strength amazing. Her writing is not too maudlin and she certainly tells it all. It was worthwhile. Also, as a side note, the music by More Than Rubies and Natalie Grant that she references is absolutely beautiful. It seems I usually can find SOME meaning in anyone's story of loss, something to help me in my own life. This book was no exception. The author was raw and honest and her story was hard to put down. Her faith is admirable and her strength amazing. Her writing is not too maudlin and she certainly tells it all. It was worthwhile. Also, as a side note, the music by More Than Rubies and Natalie Grant that she references is absolutely beautiful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Schulz

    This is such an incredible book! Vaneetha walks us through her pain and trials in her life while she is continously seeking after God. This book is something we all can relate to while we are going through pain and trials and reminds us that we are never alone (physically and spiritually) in what we are going through in life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    S.

    What a powerful book of heartbreak, hope, and devotion. Her story needed to be told and people who are suffering in life need to read this to help come to terms with it. As someone who also suffers debilitating ailments, and has lost children to miscarriage and failed adoption attempts, I can empathize with her so much and I thank her for sharing her story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I was a little taken aback that it was a heavily Christian story and it was not one I would normally read. However Vaneetha’s story drew me in and I became heavily invested in her life and her journey. Vaneetha is a remarkable woman who doesn’t give herself enough credit for the strength, love and resilience she has.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Dickerson

    A story of great suffering and great hope. It actually buoyed my own flagging faith. Incredibly honest (perhaps a little TMI at times). No sugarcoating here at all. I listened to the audio version read by the author. Well done though her chipper, cheerful voice was odd at times when her life was a mess I liked the book a lot

  19. 4 out of 5

    Briana Almengor

    I believe everyone should read this book whether suffering or not. Vaneetha’s transparency throughout the telling of her story acts as a gracious tutor for those who have not suffered in significant ways, and a hope/faith filled friend to those who have.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Wolgemuth

    A story of loss and redemption, indeed. A candid account of a hard life marked by trials and God's faithfulness. (full disclosure: the literary agency I'm a part of represents Vaneetha and this book) A story of loss and redemption, indeed. A candid account of a hard life marked by trials and God's faithfulness. (full disclosure: the literary agency I'm a part of represents Vaneetha and this book)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karina Sherwood

    Walking through fire So good! Loved reading Vaneetha’s powerful story & seeing God’s unending love on every page. It will encourage any and all who read it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Pounce

    A beautiful, raw and riveting read from Vaneetha. Such a powerful and vulnerable testimony of brokenness and loss, yet so much good came from loss. Thank you Vaneetha, this is so inspiring!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Briana

    A moving, inspiring, and deeply personal memoir. Highly recommend and I will be saving this to re-read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I read this book all in one day. I couldn’t put it down. It is gripping, raw, and beautiful and made me praise Jesus. I highly recommend it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    T

    Quite an interesting book describing the failures, hopes, and triumphs of her life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This was an inspiring, yet real memoir. I really enjoyed it and hope to be more like Vaneetha as a result of reading it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Monica Snyder

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Hood

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynnse

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