What would you do if the thing you enjoyed most in the world, your dream and your passion, was taken from you?
This was the reality that talented singer Mandy Harvey had to face as just a few months after beginning a music degree at Colorado State University her hearing deteriorated, until by the end of her freshman year, she was profoundly deaf. She sank into a deep depression and thought that her hope of a career in music was gone forever.
Fast forward ten years though, and the outcome has been very different.
I first heard about Mandy and her story when a friend sent me the link to a video clip and urged me to watch it. The clip, below, shows Mandy’s performance on America’s Got Talent earlier this year, when she shot to fame after earning a Golden Buzzer for her performance from Simon Cowell.
She will be performing in the final of America’s Got Talent this week and, along with Mark Atteberry, she has also written an autobiography called “Sensing The Rhythm- Finding My Voice In A World Without Sound,” which will be released on September 26th.
When I got the chance to read a review copy I was keen to learn more about Mandy’s story. As a musician, the thought of someone learning to sing, keeping pitch and time, without being able to hear the music, fascinated me. I wondered how she did it, how she had even thought to try, and how she had made the transition from someone whose musical career seemed to be over to an incredibly successful singer.
What I was not expecting from the book was a discussion about the Christian faith. Normally I only review Christian books, and I had planned for this book to be an exception, but when I saw the chapter headings and that chapter 10 was entitled “There’s no-one quite as hurtful as a Christian trying to justify God,” I saw that faith was up for discussion after all, though I was unsure which perspective it had been written from.
It turns out that Mandy Harvey is a Christian. It is not billed as a Christian book, but her faith shines through at various points as she tells her story, as well as in this chapter where she addresses the Christian response to her situation specifically. (I won’t go into detail here, but let me pass on one tip- “If you have enough faith, God will heal you,” is not a helpful (or true) thing to say!)
I think the way Mandy shares her story is a huge strength. Because of her success on America’s Got Talent and her amazing story of overcoming the odds, many people will be drawn to read her book who would probably not have chosen to read a Christian book. As they do, they will see an example of a real and living faith, one which is not without doubts and questions but which is clearly a significant part of her life, and which comes out naturally as she shares about her journey.
I enjoyed reading this book. It is a quick and easy read but it is filled with helpful insights. As well as telling her story, Mandy shares wisdom she has picked up along the way, and each chapter ends with some questions for reflection, inviting the reader to consider their own story and how they can move forward in their own lives.
While most of us will not share Mandy’s story of hearing loss, the themes she addresses are universal- facing loss and grief of various kinds, the temptation to find our identity in what we do, how we respond when our dreams seem to be dying, how we can face challenges and overcome adversity, and, of course, how suffering can impact our faith.
There are also many helpful insights giving a better idea of what it is like to be deaf- explaining some of the challenges people in Mandy’s situation face on a daily basis and giving advice on responding well to people with disabilities.
Above all, it is an inspirational story of overcoming seemingly impossible odds and it is well worth a read.
I’m grateful to Howard Books and Netgalley for access to an advance digital copy of this book. I only share books here that I believe will genuinely be beneficial to my readers.