A Review of
Not So Brave (a novel)
Author: Robert Jaunsen

by Jim Gleason (TRIO)

With a backlog of reading to do, it was not my intention to get into this book until much later, but once opened out of curiosity, I couldn’t put it back down until coming to the story’s end just a few hours later. The author bills this book as a novel, but the more I read, the harder it was to believe it was a story of fiction. The insights of medical detail along with the very realistic and insightful young child and later teen emotions just couldn’t be the product of research, no matter how good that effort might have been. It was only later in reading the author’s blog (i.e., that I confirmed my sense that the story, with characters and some details changed (thus the “fiction” aspect), was based on his daughter’s own real-life adventures. None of that takes away from the fact that this is a well written and captivating book that touches the heart of the reader in ways that few books do. While its narrative is told in the voice of that child patient, thus creating great appeal for the young adult audience, for the adult reader (parent or medical professional) it is also a fascinating read, providing insights into the “hidden” workings of the youthful patient’s mind as she faces one medical challenge after another until you have to wonder what keeps her going when so many others would have understandably given up, especially when there seems to be no end in sight to the physical and emotional pain she endures, day in and day out.

The lead in this story is Sara Jones, born into a life filled from birth with one medical problem after another, living a life that offers typical family challenges beyond her own medical ones including surviving to her teen years and falling in love with a fellow patient who dies from lung disease (i.e., CF). Reflecting on their short time together waiting for live saving transplants, Sara describes their romance in these wise words: “We lived one day at a time and we fought to survive one day at a time. Each new day was a blessing and a reminder to never give up. Fate and the future belonged only in the realm of our spiritual destinies.”

Survival comes with a heart/liver transplant that allows her to defy the odds and live on, overcoming the depression that such an environment often breeds. Sara’s inspiring courage of human spirit really becomes the book’s message, helping others see beyond the daily frustrations of a medical maze along with encouraging the world to say yes to organ donation that others may live the life young Sara now enjoys. The story has some unusual (but still based on her true life experience to a degree) twists in a secret sponsor that adds a sense of mystery to the fast paced reading built mostly on short chapters that beg the reader to continue into the next.

As Sara (and I have to believe this comes from the real-life basis of the “novel”) shares in a live interview: “Words can never express the gratitude I feel for receiving the gift of life. Two gifts of life, actually, a heart and a liver,” followed by her advice for us all, “Never give up, think positively and keep the faith!” Thank you Robert, for sharing the gift of your family and especially your daughter in this wonderful “novel” which I recommend with all my own transplanted heart to readers everywhere. Your writing has the power to make readers reflect on their decision to become an organ donor, and in so doing, make a difference in the lives of others like Sara and Mark in this beautiful story.

Reader Comments

I just really love the writing style...beautiful, thought provoking, and painfully honest. In fact, I thought her descriptions of the surgery were written with a kind of dream like poetic introspect that no one has ever been able to reach in any other account that I have every read on organ transplant. It was almost mesmerizing to read how vulnerable she was laying there open for all to see. I have read several books now that transplant patients have written and so far none of them even come close to what I have read so far... In fact, the books were quite boring and "testimonial" sounding. This reads like a story, a movie, a life. -- Karen Range

I think it is a great story... the P.O.V. and the narration is very good and so far the story line and the way it is being presented keeps you on the edge... Good work! -- Jeff Hillinger

You are a WONDERFUL writer...Really enjoyed reading this! -- John Stamos

I read the manuscript and was really impressed. I think the first person narrative is very compelling, and you were able to build suspense into the storyline. Your use of language is also very engaging. Congratulations on a great effort!!! -- Norise Jastillana

It is so descriptive, and does create a very real picture of what someone is going through even if it is scary.
-- Mary Fakehany

I read the online version of your book and it is absolutely amazing. -- Bob Pitcock

I cannot put your book down… Your BOOK ROCKS! I just finished your AMAZING tear jerking, laughing at the right times, moving to the ends of earth BOOK. This has GOT to Unforgettable true LOVE. Your book was an incredible read. I was moved to the max. I cannot give any bit of your book away until others have read it. I read your book within a three to four hour period. I will read it again to absorb more of the details because my emotions got a hold on me. I cried!!!!!! and then laughed throughout a few scenes. Excellent writing style and great story. keeps me on the edge of my seat. -- Rise' Gans

It reads well, has good flow, or "rhythm" as I like to call the way words are woven together to create a "High Def" picture in my mind. -- Don Peshek

Very moving and beautifully written! -- Scott Smolka

This story is amazing. I can really relate to Sara’s feelings and experiences. I have an LVAD and will be facing a heart transplant in the future. I absolutely loved this book, I could not stop reading it until I read the entire story in one sitting. Absolutely awesome! -- Suzanne

I read "Not So Brave" last year and loved it! It took me a while to get through it, because I have a very busy life post transplant, but I was happy when I got to finally finish it. I can totally empathize with Sara since we both needed more than one organ and both went through a lot to get where we are today. I would love to hear more!! -- Patty Caulkins Prince
Comments to Kelli (Not So Brave was based on her life)
Kelli, had to tell you I loved the book! I finished it this morning, couldn't put it down once I started! Tell your Dad that he did a wonderful job of relating your thoughts and feelings throughout the book, and as a former English teacher I was amazed by a former policeman's command of the English language! -- Maureen Flanagan Hillary

Hi Kelli, I just finished your book. It is the most amazing miracle story about transplantation and organ donation, I’ve ever read. And, I have read a lot of them, almost every one I have been able to find. Because, I did have a heart tx. But, I did not know, I even needed one or that I had a problem with my heart. I thought I had the flu. Clasped in June 2004, hospitalized in Illinois, woke up in the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, in July with my family at my side, telling me I had a heart tx. So, I do not know what it is like to know and have to wait for a transplant. I am not sure I could have survived, the knowing and waiting. Unsure if I was going to live or die. I still struggle today, with so many questions. But you….you are an amazing strong intelligent person with such a great attitude about life. You have gone thru so much, it is heartbreaking. You are such an inspiration to so many people. Take Care! -- Deborah J Taylor Smith

The book about Kelli's life is very good. It is a very positive and heart warming story. -- Fran Miller

I have not been able to put it down since I started reading it. you have quite a story. Its obvious you are meant to be here. I received the book late on Friday, and finished it this morning. I don’t know if it completely changed my mind or directed me to go straight to the transplant center with a smile on my face, but I did feel a bit more courage popping up after reading your story. I love the idea of souls merging as one after receiving the gift. The way you received yours was an absolute miracle, but so destined. One could learn a lot from you and your family. -- Linda Mate

I just recently finished re-reading Kelli’s Dad’s book “Not So Brave.” I read it online, but then re-read it with book in hand. I just wanted to comment on what a great book it is. This is not your run of the mill transplant story. It is not an autobiography. It is a story. A fictional story – a story that anyone would find entertaining, thought provoking, and at sometimes tear producing. It is not targeted just towards the transplant community, but towards the general public. I have read a lot of “transplant” book and “Not So Brave” is not even in the same category.

I will admit that the story is based loosely on Kelli’s experience, but where else could you find such an extraordinary character. The main character of the book – Sara Jones – is an extraordinary person. From birth she has felt pain, suffering and insurmountable odds, but yet her greatest desire is to live. Many times along her path in life she could have given up and accepted her fate, but she goes the extra mile and fights to experience as much of life as she can. In my mind, I find this book to be the ultimate love story. Not a romantic love story, but a love of life, family, friends, and all God’s creatures. Sara Jones helps us realize that life is a precious gift and that everyday God has given us little treasures to uncover.

I think what really strikes me as most amazing is that as Kelli’s Dad tells this story, he weaves in the importance of Organ Donation. On several occasion the reader will understand the need for more organs so that more lives can be saved.

Yes – the book does describe transplant in a pretty descriptive way, but it does not focus on Sara’s transplant. It focuses on Sara’s life and her incredible spirit. I think that anyone that reads this book will find that his or her life has been enriched just to know Sara Jones for few short hours. As always the book has a surprise ending that will keep the reader turning the pages to get to the end.

I know that all of us want to spread the news about Organ Donation. I think that this book is a very non-threatening way to approach friends and family about Organ Donation. By recommending this book they are getting a great story and a nudge toward Organ Donation. The best of both worlds!

God Bless! -- Karen Range

Hey Karen!!!
I got to meet Kelli and her Dad & Mom -- and I got to get my book signed!!! I truly enjoyed the book -- I understand that some of it is fiction, to help the story flow -- but I also understand that much of it is based on a real and precious person... It was neat to read -- and it was neat to meet them... Glad you enjoyed it too...
Love -- Steve Ferkau

Your Dad's book was fantastic, he is a great writer, and your story is such an inspiration. It truly is a love story between you and your family. Diane Lewis