4 out of 4 stars
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As a child, Gina was twice given up for adoption by her mother, Cathy. She was adopted by a cousin, Judy, and her husband, Ernie. Gina's formative years were traumatic for her. She experienced rejection, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and was hurt by people she looked up to and trusted.
In this book, Gina Birkemeier takes the reader back a few generations to her great grandmother, Lucia; her grandmother, Marie; and her mother, Cathy. Gina gives details of these women's experiences; she narrates Lucia's decision to elope with a man while still married to another. She then reveals how the result of this singular decision reverberated down the family tree, making its way through each generation to her.
Gina deserves applause for penning Generations Deep. I can't imagine how challenging it would be to write about such intimate and painful experiences for the world's consumption. Many of the author's experiences were as tragic as they come, leaving enough emotional and mental scars to last several lifetimes. Still, the grace and finesse with which she wrote this book clearly reflected her status as a talented psychologist. Gina's story was unapologetically realistic and a stark reminder of how much the actions, beliefs, and emotional makeup of the people before us can shape our circumstances. As I read through the troubles and tragedies of the women before her, it was clear to see how Gina's life was a train wreck that had already happened before she was born. With such a lineage, the trauma of her childhood, although heartbreaking, didn't surprise me.
Thankfully, this book wasn't all about Gina's tragic upbringing. The author eventually decided to take steps to heal herself and make the best of her life. She wrote pointedly about her journey of self-discovery and her attempt to evaluate her family tree and identify the debilitating patterns, traits, and beliefs that may have been genetically passed down from previous generations.
The personal growth she experienced while trying to heal from the trauma of her dysfunctional family—although it didn't erase her faults—helped her see clearer and informed her decision to help others, which I admired. While I appreciated this story, I could see how following Gina's healing process would be a giant leap for many readers. Thankfully, the author broke her story into different sections, arranging them in concise chunks that would be easier to digest. She also included questions throughout the book to guide the reader and provided questionnaires to help the reader probe their lives. This book certainly gave me sufficient motivation to journal as I read.
While Gina talked about her strong faith in God and its importance to her healing journey, she also advocated for therapy. While therapy helped her identify destructive patterns in her life and achieve emotional release, her faith helped her deal with some of the unhealthy beliefs she had. I appreciated this symbiosis between faith and therapy because I've met too many people who feel that opting for therapy is somehow a denial of their faith. I've never believed this. Gina's expertise as a psychologist saw her proffer and explain some intriguing therapy models to help people struggling with traumatic situations. I also believe these explanations would help allay the fears and doubts some people may have about therapy.
I didn't dislike anything about this book. It is bound to pull the strings of your heart as it did mine. It was also exceptionally well edited, so I rate it 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to therapists and people dealing with physical and emotional trauma.
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