This last summer I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Lacey Sturm, independent artist and formerly recognized lead vocalist of Flyleaf. I’d just finished hearing her perform and give her brief testimony (as she is known to share in concert; I have heard it several times now), and decided at long last I would purchase the book I knew she’d written the year before. Lacey signed it and graced me with the opportunity for a photo. We wished each other well and moved on with our lives.
Well, I’ve finally finished the book. It was enthralling.
Titled The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living, the book is Lacey’s testimony and conviction in a fully-fleshed out, poignant, and contrite delivery. It was made deliberately easy to read for all audiences, yet emotionally striking as she walks the reader through her life. Each chapter is armed with a title that parrots the name of the book, with added meaning to help theme each chapter. These chapter titles, as simple a function as they may be, helped serve the book greatly in developing tone. For example, a couple chapter titles are “The Reason I Loved Jazz,” “The Reason I Wanted to Die,” “The Reason I Fell In Love With Sadness,” and “The Reason People Matter.”
These titles, combined with the scattered “emo-girl” sketches (which looked as though they might have come from an angsty high-schooler’s journal), serve to generate not only a tone for the book as we progress through Lacey’s narrative, but also a soft aesthetic to provoke our visual interest.
Here at Geeks Under Grace, we typically have sub-categories for our content guides. In approaching The Reason, I’m going to subvert this expectation, as I do not believe it is required for this particular item.
In “The Reason” there’s negative material only in that it pertains to helping the reader understand Lacey’s obstacles throughout life. Lacey outlines her misguided glorification of secular artists such as Nirvana, nods to her reliance on drugs and cigarettes in high school, and refers to her general hatred and disrespect of people during the low points of her life, including the feelings that often accompanied that hatred. None of the negative material is presented with vulgarity, but as a fundamental asset to helping the reader relate to Lacey’s youth. Even when Lacey talks about derogatory gestures and remarks, she does it with consideration for her audience and in alignment with her faith, only speaking of them rather than quoting the actual words or mimicking the expressions. Lacey shows the dramatic way God changed her perceptions of sin and how the filth in her life was just that: filth. The drugs, misguided romances, and deprecation of God’s children are all torn away in light of His truth.
All of this is to say, while Lacey’s story involves a lot of negative material, the presentation itself is in no way representative of that negativity, and should not curb the interest of potential readers. In most of our reviews here at Geeks Under Grace, we warn people of content concerns so they may better judge if they should consume some type of media, but in this case, it works in the opposite. The material is there on purpose so you can read it and see how somebody was able to overcome their demons in an honest, God-glorifying way.
It’s hard to judge a book like this on grounds of ‘pacing’ and ‘narrative’ because it’s not formal literature. It’s an autobiography. That being said, Lacey still manages to create a coherent, logical timeline of her life, with a different conflict present in each stage of her history. She starts in her childhood, where the primary issues revolve around family. Her mother is verbally and emotionally abusive at times, Lacey gets into trouble with her siblings, and their family as a whole is short financially, and so has to deal with the myriad complications that come with such trouble.
As she gets older and begins to recognize her individual identity (or lack thereof), the conflict transforms into whether she can trust the authorities in her world. The media is deceptive, her mother is inconsistent, and relationships both romantic and platonic are subject to change. These are the trails of her adolescence, the things that drive her to find solace and reinforcement in dark music and narcotics. At odds with the universe, Lacey finds herself shunning the idea of God and fully embracing the atheist lifestyle. What’s more, not only does she pledge herself to atheism, but she adopts a temperament that is openly resentful of humanity as a whole. All of this is forced to a fold when she is pressed by her grandmother to attend a rather life-breaking church service, which seemed divinely catered to her heart.
Christ eventually breaks in with force, showing Lacey beauty and purpose, allowing her space to redefine her life in a new light. Further down the line, Passersby (the band that would eventually become Flyleaf) takes shape. With this new vehicle of expression, Lacey and her comrades begin to fight for the Kingdom on a stage, in front of an audience. Naturally, this creates several new problems and conflicts of personal, professional, and public form, as Flyleaf embraces their odd identity as a Christian band who traverses the secular scene.
So on and so forth. I will not address all of the struggles detailed in The Reason, both because that is not my place, and because I could never outline it in as personal a way as Lacey does in her narrative. Throughout the course of the book, people are shown to change, to face their own challenges, and to overcome in their own ways. One excerpt is a simple exposition from Lacey remarking the reasons she loves every member of Flyleaf and how each are unique. This was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the entire book, not just because the reader gets to see these people through the lens of Lacey’s heart, but because while reading, I’d been listening to some Flyleaf tracks (seemed appropriate) and hit the bridge of “Arise” just as the exposition began. The tone of the book at that moment coalesced with the music in such a shiver-inducing way that I couldn’t help but smile and put the book down for a moment afterwards to revel in the perfect timing and delivery of these two elements of Lacey’s imagination.
The prose is nothing remarkable, but hardly threatens to damage the book overall. Lacey clearly enjoys reading and has adopted the form of writing to become a powerful vehicle for conveying her thoughts. It was refreshing for me to read a book where the author was straightforward and more interested in making sure the reader understood the text of each line rather than encumbering the story with aesthetic details. This wasn’t the type of memoir for that sort of storytelling anyways, and is better served by keeping the purple to a minimum.
Whether a long-time fan of her music or somebody who just wants inside the story of a girl who conquered her darkness, The Reason is a superb read. It’s a poignant, yet contrite telling of a life almost lost, yet redeemed and empowered. I recommend picking up the book and giving it a try.
If you don’t have time for that, at least consider listening to Lacey’s song by the same name. You might find your heart stirred a little bit.
God bless, feel fully alive, and always remember to smile.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0801016738]
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