If you're looking for an indelible read about finding hope in the eye of a personal storm, I suggest you get a copy of Ericka Andersen Sylvester's debut novel Leaving Cloud 9: The True Story of a Life Resurrected from the Ashes of Poverty, Trauma, and Mental Illness. The book is due out on June 26, 2018. It has even been lauded by Publishers' Weekly.
Below is the book trailer:
You can also learn more about the book from Ericka's recent talk at Heritage Foundation:
If you've worked in conservative politics, Ericka's name should be familiar. Formerly a communications staffer for now-VP Mike Pence and Digital Director for both Heritage Foundation and National Review, Andersen's foray into writing shouldn't be a surprise. In fact, her book really highlights what an effective storyteller she is, especially for a non-political topic. She is someone you shouldn't discount.
Ericka isn't shy about cataloging her life or that of her husband, Rick Sylvester. After spending several years interviewing Rick, which she documents was an arduous but fascinating process, she got his blessing and the subsequent confidence to publish a book that is geared towards helping others heal.
In Leaving Cloud 9, Ericka documents how her husband and his younger sister were routinely abused and neglected by their mother at an Arizona trailer park called "Cloud 9" —an upbringing that was far from it. His mother's vices of choice were men or drugs, which were cyclical and more violent with each go. This pattern soon followed Rick in adulthood with divorce, unemployment, and drugs—culminating with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Rick, she notes, also had few father figures given the absence of his biological father, who abandoned the family when Rick was two. This absence, compounded by his mother's recklessness, nearly put him on the edge of personal destruction.
This is a story all of us can relate to, the author believes, because we all know someone who has struggled with abuse or addiction who later reformed their life. (And we know those who haven't.) It's a story of her husband finding redemption, hope, and God—the latter of which is quite powerful and true for those who've struggled with addiction, mental illness, or similar conditions. Andersen says her husband's journey to fully discovering the Lord is what especially helped him heal.
In Leaving Cloud 9, Ericka catalogues her husband's life story very delicately, attentively, and thoroughly. Her storytelling abilities really shine through the book. You wince, you cry, you rejoice with every page turn. I attentively zipped through the book in a single two-hour setting; I simply couldn't put the book down! I'm confident you won't either.
We could use a positive book like this, given the times we are in—especially with opioids being the leading killer of Americans and uneasiness with growing creeping secularism plaguing the country.