Just thirty hours before, Jeff had been at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon cheering on his girlfriend, Erin, when the first bomb went off at his feet. As he was rushed to the hospital, he realized he was severely injured and that he might die, but he didn't know that a photograph of him in a wheelchair was circulating throughout the world, making him the human face of the Boston Marathon bombing victims, or that what he'd seen would give the Boston police their most important breakthrough.
Up until the marathon, Jeff had been a normal 27-year-old guy, looking forward to moving in with Erin and starting the next phase of their lives together. But when his life was turned upside down in ways he could never have fathomed, Jeff did not give up. Instead he faced his new circumstances with grace, humor, and a sense of purpose: he was determined, no matter what, to walk again.
In STRONGER, Jeff describes the chaos and terror of the bombing itself and the ongoing FBI investigation in which he was a key witness. He takes us inside his grueling rehabilitation, and discusses his attempt to reconcile the world's admiration with his own guilt and frustration. And he tells of the courage of his fellow survivors. Brave, compassionate, and emotionally compelling, Jeff Bauman's story is not just his, but ours as well. It proves that the terrorists accomplished nothing with their act of cowardice and shows the entire world what Boston Strong really means.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-07
- Reviewer: Staff
Jeff Bauman was next to the bomb when it exploded at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Pictures of him flooded the media as he became the iconic image of the tragedy: Bauman in a wheel chair, legs missing from the knees down. The following weeks of speculation and the eventual police shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers is well documented. Bauman and co-author Bret Witter are telling a different story, a personal story. Bauman is a likable narrator; he keeps the tone light while admitting the difficulty of his situation. He doesn't try to elevate himself. His honesty is welcome: he's a college dropout, lives at home with his parents. Bauman does not sugar coat the heroism of his situation. He's upfront about the difficulties of amputation, of his family adjusting to new realities, of being a sudden media personality, all which makes the book a worthy read. Bauman's story will serve to help others who have suffered similar losses, but the book feels rushed, calculated as is common with timely events, to get the story "out there". Bauman intentions feel genuine, pushing the book out is obviously a publisher decision which is understandable but affects the impact. The media frenzy over the bombing isn't over, and will likely continue through the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Apr.)
After the bombing, a survivor's own marathon
When explosions rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, three people were killed and 260 injured, among them Jeff Bauman. Standing with friends to cheer on his girlfriend, who was running in the race, Bauman saw a man whose appearance and demeanor didn’t fit the crowd leave a backpack and walk away. Bauman was about to suggest to his friends that they move farther up the street when the pack exploded, taking both his legs with it. Stronger is Bauman’s account of his injury and recovery, and a tribute to working-class Boston resilience.
Bauman, with co-author Bret Witter, describes growing up among hard-working, hard-partying relatives and struggling to find his own path. Unable to afford college, he was cooking rotisserie chickens at Costco when the bombing occurred (a co-worker convinced him to keep his employee health insurance, which turned out to be a financial lifesaver). He’s apprehensive at being called a hero despite providing a description credited with helping to identify bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and feels pressured to make appearances at multiple charity events, even though the travel saps energy needed for his own recovery.
Bauman describes feeling no hatred toward the Tsarnaev brothers, just sorrow that they chose to hurt strangers out of a sense of their own futility. Carlos Arredondo, the man who saved Bauman’s life (pictured in a famous AP photo in which he’s running next to Bauman in a wheelchair) had his own life changed by stepping up in a moment of crisis. His personal story is heartbreaking, but his friendship with Bauman seems to offer a glimmer of hope.
Bauman’s frank discussion of the long path to recovery, seeded with doubt, setbacks and small victories, makes Stronger both informative and inspiring.
Heather Seggel reads too much and writes all about it in Northern California.