Title: Ben Carson: A Chance at Life
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then and Now
Major Themes: Doctors, Medicine, Faith
Synopsis: The life story of Ben Carson, a renowned brain surgeon who spearheaded the first successful separation of cranially conjoined twins.
Our family has always loved listening to stories, so several years ago when we finally got a vehicle that was quiet enough to listen to audiobooks in while we traveled, we were quite excited! We’ve listened to several stories over the years, and our most recent one was Ben Carson: A Chance at Life from one of our favorite biography series, Christian Heroes: Then and Now. I’ve always appreciated the way the Benges stick to the facts while still making a biography read like a novel, and this book was no different. Years ago, soon after we moved to New Zealand, Mom read Gifted Hands to our family, so I was familiar with Ben Carson’s story. Then more recently, we enjoyed the Gifted Hands movie together. I think having watched the movie helped my younger siblings imagine this more fleshed-out version of Ben Carson’s story this time around.
Growing up in a single-parent household in a predominantly white area wasn’t easy for Ben Carson. Besides his challenges at school, his mother had to work hard to keep their family afloat, so he and his brother had a lot of time on their own. Eventually, though, his mother realized the boys were coasting and not doing well with their schoolwork, so she gave them a challenge: Only one (or maybe two, I don’t remember) TV show per week, and instead, they had to read at least two books each week and present her with a book report at the end. The boys were unhappy, but rules were rules, so they started visiting the library and checking out new books for themselves. Before too long, it changed their lives. Ben grew up to become a brain surgeon, and with God’s help, he eventually became one of the best-known surgeons of his time. Willing to try even the riskier operations, in the hopes of helping people’s lives, he was eventually asked to try to help separate cranially conjoined twins. Though it was a dangerous and potentially lethal operation, through lots of prayer, study, and advice, he decided to try to do it—and the results changed the history of medicine.
I love true stories, especially the ones where people have to turn to the Lord for the strength they need to get through difficult situations. Ben Carson: A Chance at Life was one of those. I found his story just as inspiring the third time around as the first time I heard about him. It isn’t that I think the man was perfect, but he allowed the Lord to lead him in his different tasks, said yes to things that most people wouldn’t even attempt to do, and he did them well.
One thing I appreciated about this book was being able to see more of his overall life story, rather than just the partial picture you get in Gifted Hands. Gifted Hands is great, and I’m hoping I can re-read it sometime in the future, but I also appreciated getting to see a little more about his family and what happened after that book was written. There were some wonderful victories in Ben’s life as well as some devastating failures, and I appreciated getting an idea of a lot of them through this story. This was an excellent read, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with others in the future.
WARNING: Ben’s parents divorce in ch. 2. In ch. 4 – 5, there is a story of four girls killed by a bomb at a church, some talk of racial inequality, a boy gets hit with a stick, someone says “If we ever catch you again, we’ll kill you,” a boy punches a bullying classmate, a boy is angry with his mother, there is a mention of people who were murdered, and a boy tries to stab his friend. A boy becomes an Army cadet in ch. 6. In ch. 8, a man learns his father was a bigamist and illegally sold alcohol and possibly drugs. In ch. 9 there is a kiss and a few details of brain surgery. In ch 12, a woman is in labor (somewhat detailed). In ch 16, there is a story of a boy who was beaten, shot down, and killed. From ch. 14 – the end, there are several stories of unsuccessful surgeries and twins dying.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15
Links to buy this book:
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle | Audible Audiobook (unabridged) | Audio CD
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
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