Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: Following the Whispers

 Following the Whispers, a brutally honest memoir by Karen Walker, was a 2009 Finalist in the New Mexico Book Awards. Karen doesn’t hold back. She lays out her childhood and her adulthood for the reader, without glossing over anything. I think it may be the most sincere memoir I’ve read.

She starts the book in her childhood when she was three and refused to go to bed and the punishment she received from her mother. There are stories in the book that are difficult to read, but I kept reading because I know Karen online; therefore, I know she survived. I know that she becomes whole.

She takes readers along on that journey to become whole. We live through the bad times and the good times -- through her spiritual journey to the point where she is now. This is not to say that everything is perfect in her life. She tries many paths, religions and books until she learns to listen to the whispers of Spirit within herself.

That journey is a most interesting one, although until she begins to trust and believe in herself, it is often a sad and complicated journey. The story of her life affected three generations: her parents, herself, and her son.

This is from the first page of her story:
Childhood should be a sanctuary -- a refuge before the onslaught of life -- a cocoon in which one feels unconditionally loved….My childhood was no such thing.
Karen shows us how this affected her teenage years and her adulthood - as well as the life of her own son. How it still affects her today.

Following the Whispers by Karen Walker
Barnes and Noble

I give Following the Whispers a rating of Hel-of-a-Story.
FTC Disclaimer: The author Karen Walker sent me Following the Whispers. That did not affect my review. Her memoir, a story of finding inner peace and self-acceptance despite all that happened to her, affected my review. Although, I would say to Karen, You need to put a warning on this book: Do Not Read in Public. I read Following the Whispers on a flight from Austin to El Paso. Then I had a four-hour wait until my husband arrived from Denver before we could head to Las Cruces, New Mexico. So I sat near the baggage area and read. And cried. And tried to hunker down when security kept eyeing me.


  1. Good morning, came over from Karen's page. I ordered a copy from Amazon and got a paperback for almost nothing and it had a signed inscription inside, not to me, but it was signed which was special. It was brutally honest and I was so glad I had the experience of reading it and encouraging others to get it as well. Have a great day.

  2. My Mom gave my sister and I a childhood that was a haven and a was an extraordinary gift from her as her own childhood was one of abuse and abandonment. I wonder if this book would be a catharsis for her or if it would open too many wounds? It sounds as if it's a hel-of-a-read!
    Judy, South Africa

  3. Kudos to Karen for sharing her journey. I feel as though her blog, too, is still part of the ongoing journey. She has a way of asking the right questions of life and getting her readers thinking ...

  4. Sounds like a hard, but inspirational read.

  5. Karen is really an inspiration to me. She is kind and thoughtful and has overcome and triumphed over more in her lifetime than I'll ever see in mine. I love the way, in particular, that she can take herself out of a moment, think it through, and take a measured, careful action in response. I'm still a work in progress! Would love to be able to approach life like Karen does.

  6. Great review for Karen's book! She doesn't hold back on her blog either.

  7. Helen, I am humbled by this review and by the comments left here by those I know, and those I don't know. Thank you so much for being willing to read outside of your genres. And I am so sorry I made you cry!

  8. Karen, my crying was a good thing. It meant that I felt your pain. Your writing was that good.

  9. As a guy who writes 'popcorn' books, I'm always impressed by folks who write stuff that actually impact feelings.

  10. The more I hear about this book the more I am tempted to read it. The only reason I hesitate is that my childhood was less than stellar, and I'm not sure I want to visit that kind of pain again. That's why I wrote a humorous memoir. You think Freud would have something to say about that?

  11. Helluvagood review, too! I found "Whisper" a captivating read, also as you say, brutally honest ... as any good memoir should be. I'm working on my own review right now and will soon be doing a feature on Karen on Free Spirit.

    Thanks for this!

    Marvin D Wilson

  12. Wow! Fantastic review, Helen. This is on my reading list for sure!

  13. WOW! SOunds like a moving story! I will need to check this out.

  14. I don't know anyone who had an ideal childhood. Even so, I admire those who can write their story. I don't think I could write mine, and I don't think I'd want to.

  15. After reading the review and the comments I'm definitely finding Karen's blog now and her book when I next hit the bookstore.

  16. I love Karen's blog, and am looking forward to reading her book. Thanks for this review!

  17. Christopher, I'm grateful if my words touch someone. It's why I write.
    Maryann, the only reason one might re-visit that pain is if there are unresolved issues, so if all is well, I'd leave it alone.
    Old Silly, you're a sweetheart!
    Tali, wow, thanks - I just ordered yours!
    PK, thanks a lot.
    Helen, writing memoir is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you found it "brutally honest" it was brutal at times, writing it, but also cathartic.
    JP, thanks much
    Julie, thank you so much.

  18. What a wonderful review. To bare ones soul an lay it out there warts and all takes courage. Well done Karen for taking that risk and well done Helen for reading and feeling Karen's painful journey.

  19. This is on my must be read list. I admire Karen as a new friend and blogger. Thanks for the warning about reading in public!

  20. I agree, childhood should be a cocoon, but often isn't. I watched a DVD this week "10 Things every child needs" simple things such as touch and love and reassurance. Some of the pictures were hard to take of children in Romanian orphanages who were not held - ever.
    Hopefully Karen's book will help others.

  21. Laura, I should add a disclaimer to my disclaimer: I tend to cry. I'm a bit emotional when it comes to the pain that someone is suffering.

  22. Good opening. My childhood was, for the most part, very good with spots of...very bad.

    Karen, the healing process is only each individuals to make. No one can do it for us. I decided a long time ago, not to remain a victim. I hate victim-hood and it's a choice we make. I refused to be defined by that. I admire anyone who chooses to find peace and healing.

    Kudos to you.

    Thank you, Helen, for featuring this one!

    Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

  23. Ann, thanks for your kind words.
    Laura, thanks
    Cozy in Texas, gosh I hope so - it's why I spent 10 years working on it - hoping my pain could help others.
    Sia, thank you so much for your wonderful words. So glad you were able transform your "bad" moments and live life not as a victim. That only keeps us stuck,
    Helen, thank you again for your willingness to read my memoir and for this wonderful review. I am very very grateful.

  24. Hi Helen .. and Karen .. so good to read the review and to know that people can write about their horrors .. it's funny isn't it - I'm not sure I could - as like Maryann said I don't like to remind myself. Essentially though we were very lucky and were probably protected from the worst ..

    I too will add to my TBB list .. and will get and read it - when time is more on my side ..

    It's so good to read these reviews .. because we probably wouldn't in our normal lives .. ie without blogging ..

    Thanks Helen .. and Karen so good to be here now with you on your journey .. Hilary

  25. Karen's book is amazing. I could not put it down, her honesty is incredible.

    Great review.

  26. Excellent review. I figured from what I'd read in Karen's blog that this would be a powerful read.

    Tossing It Out


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