After author Sarah Jackson draws back the curtain of her life in When Angels Fly, one can’t help but reach for the Kleenex box. To say that her life was hard would be a gross understatement. When enraged, her mother would drag her by the hair through the house, scream and curse at her in front of her friends, or hurl insults to shame her, among other cruelties. Then to escape her mother, she married a man who was an abusive alcoholic. It was hard not to cry while reading that her husband beat her when she was pregnant, targeting her face instead of her stomach as if he were doing her a favour. Enough already!
Yet there was more. A stillbirth and then doctors diagnosed Jackson’s four-year-old son with a rare cancer. In the bulk of this memoir, Jackson takes the reader through the lengthy hospital stay as she watches her son slip away. She’s torn between helping her sick son while lifting the spirits of her healthy son, who is back home, which is over two hundred miles away. And during this long painful time, she faces her mother’s and now ex-husband’s outrageous behaviours while navigating the trials of her son’s medical treatment.
What Jackson endured would break most people—but it doesn't break her. She was and is a testament to a mother’s indomitable strength and love. Despite her horrendous heartache, she found the small moments to celebrate. When her son’s right eye was compromised while he was fighting the tumor, she wrote in her journal about the “sparkle in his left eye.” She was grateful for the laughter when her sick son delights in spraying doctors, nurses and others with his water gun. She treasured the happy moments he had when talking to his brother on the phone. “The key to happiness really was gratitude. As I bent my head in prayer and whispered a prayer, I realized how true it was.” Her faith and devotion were an inspiration.
The reader will find it hard not to fall in love with her sick child, who, to protect his mother from worrying, didn’t tell her he was hurting when “I knew damn well he had to be,” she said.
When Angels Fly by S. Jackson and A. Raymond is a book you’ll long remember after reading the final pages.