Book by: Bryan Anderson with David Mack
Review by: Walter F. Benefield
CLASS Advisement Center
Georgia Southern University
No Turning Back, by Bryan Anderson, is an inspiring story of resiliency, perseverance, and transformation that emerges from the U.S.A.’s involvement in warfare for ten years plus in Southwest Asia. The book is a familiar story; a wounded veteran overcomes huge obstacles and manages to create an incredible life, but life stories are never quite as simple as they may appear.
Anderson’s memoir starts with details of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in Baghdad, Iraq which left him a triple amputee with both legs and his left arm below the elbow missing. The memoir details Anderson’s experiences after being hit by an IED and gives the reader a view of his life, not hindered by disability, but instead as Anderson says, “no matter what roadblocks life throws in your way, you can find a way to keep going” (p.180). Anderson gives the reader an intimate look at his disability and the rehabilitation process. Anderson recounts that initially he was depressed, but during the process he came to realize that he was not the only person with issues “whether it’s missing legs, or a lousy job…everybody has their own problems”, but what matters is whether or not those issues hinder progress (p.59). This realization gives the reader insight into Anderson’s resilient mindset. Throughout the memoir Anderson’s resilience is demonstrated time and time again and as he shares his story, it is clear his level of resiliency contributed to his successful recovery and rehabilitation. Interestingly, Anderson talks about how losing his legs and left arm did not limit his possibilities in life but the “opposite happened: getting wounded in Iraq and surviving as a triple amputee” gave Anderson notoriety that landed him on “the cover of Esquire [and] a spot on CSI: NY and so on” (p.179).
Several lessons can be extracted from the memoir and applied when working with students. First, life is full setbacks and most students will not have to face a choice to “move on, or roll over and die” as Anderson did (p.20). But students will face setbacks that impact their lives in profound ways at which time advisors can share this insight, “whether the things that happen to you are lucky or not depends entirely on how you think about them and what you make of the opportunities you’re given” (p.180). Second, resiliency can be developed even amid setbacks. Anderson’s story illustrates this point throughout the memoir when he makes choices to persevere despite what his body was telling him. In a similar way, students face choices to exercise resiliency or not when faced with setbacks on college campuses. Lastly, adversity often contains a treasure trove of self-awareness, if individuals can work through the setbacks to find it. Anderson talks at length throughout the book about discovering insights about himself after experiencing the IED attack, recovering and going through rehabilitation. Anderson says, he went from seeing rehabilitation as a chore that needed to be done to instead being, “the first step on a journey to the life…[he] wanted to live” (p.127). Students are on a journey where they are not only learning lessons in classrooms, but also learning about themselves in the process.
No Turning Back is an excellent example of resiliency when faced with setbacks, despite some moralistic tones when the author shares some of his opinions. The book is a good resource on lessons to share with students.
No Turning Back (2011). Book by Bryan Anderson with David Mack. Review by Walter F. Benefield. New York, NY: Penguin Group. 252 pp., $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-25319-9