Cover Image: When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough

When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough

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Member Reviews

Ms. Schumann presents a case for gun reform in the United States. As a gun violence survivor, her personal narrative provides a compelling backdrop for her arguments, backed by research. A great read for anyone who wants to resolve gun violence with solutions based approaches. Hopefully will spark some good conversations and tip the meter towards action rather than apathy.
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A 5-star non-fiction read! I'd like to put a copy into the hands of every Christian I know. The first part of the book covers the authors experience as the victim of a school shooting, as well as the aftermath (surgeries, hospitalizations, the healing process, PTSD, etc.) The middle part of the book covers gun violence, and how we can advocate for gun reform, providing statistics throughout. Schumann highlights the claims often made by gun rights activists and the lack of evidence for their claims. In fact, fewer guns and better laws (closing loopholes, background checks, safety and storage, instituting red flag laws, etc.) reduce gun violence in the home, reduce suicides, and reduce law enforcement shootings, both by police officers and against police officers. Throughout the book, she handles this controversial topic with a posture of humility and grace. In the end, she shares information about the "God and guns" culture and provides Bible verses, stories, and questions for Christians to reflect upon and consider. Ultimately, we ought to be mindful of the 300 victims of gun violence every single day in the United States (100 deaths, 200 injuries) and the vast cost to our communities. I highly recommend purchasing this book and giving it a read, no matter where you currently stand on the topic of guns. There is plenty of food for thought and every reader will learn something. Thank you, IVP and NetGalley.
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This book accomplished what it set out to achieve in its premise: telling a personal story that had a right to be told and connecting its message with a cultural wound that keeps bleeding. This author is qualified to pen a gripping critique on the gun violence pandemic that rages in America, given her own victimhood as a survivor of a school shooting. The factor of her faith is what helps make this book stand apart. Hands down, this book unpacks the best argument I’ve seen regarding the need for gun policy reform in our fair land, especially given the fact that the death toll is so very high. I doubt even the most ardent gun rights advocates could wrestle with the truths of this book and live thereafter unchanged. This is a sobering and essential read.
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When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough by Taylor S. Shumann is the brave story of a woman that survived a workplace shooting.  Taylor does an amazing job of writing out what happened to her, exactly how she was feeling, and what we can do to potentially decrease gun violence.  I appreciated so much her honesty in her writing.  I loved this:  "If the measurement of who we are is how important we are in the world, it will be nearly impossible to remember all of us have inherent worth simply because we are made in the image of Christ."  Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy.  All opinions are my own.
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Due to the heavy nature of the subject matter, it took me a while to make my way through it, but I think it helped to give her story some space. I was constantly impressed with the grace and nuance Taylor brings to this conversation. She establishes early on that she’s not simply interested in changing anyone’s mind but that her story is an invitation to take a new look at a hard topic. I kept finding myself reminded of the way Sarah and Beth have discussions on Pantsuit Politics . Some chapters are necessarily more statistic/numbers heavy, but they are balanced out with chapter that are more memoir feeling, which worked well for me as a reader.

While never proposing an obvious easy answer for gun violence, I appreciated Schumann’s focus on action, noting that we can’t fix this problem overnight but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Overall, Taylor’s story left me hopeful and more engaged in a conversation I’d previously found overwhelming.
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I first "met" Taylor on Twitter a few years ago, and have since watched her advocate for gun reform, survivors of gun violence, and herself with deep admiration and respect. She is a woman who cuts to the heart of things with the power of her own story, her humor, and her wise words. Taylor's new book When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough encompasses all of these gifts and more. It is at once a searing portrait of how gun violence transforms lives and entire communities AND a call-to-action for Jesus followers to put our money where our mouth is and love our neighbors in ways that move past mere thoughts and prayers. It is an invitation to show up already, and Taylor is generous enough to offer multiple chapters of data and evidence to help us on the journey. Advocacy can feel isolating, but with Taylor's book in our hands, we don't have any more excuses not to join her.
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“It is hard and heavy work to reconcile your faith with your circumstances when your life looks different than you thought it would.“

I finished When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough with tears in my eyes and fire in my heart.

Part memoir and part research, Taylor Schumann shares her story as a shooting survivor and activist for gun control.

Part 1 is "A Survivor's Journey" and Part 2 is "Our Societal Challenge". Taylor's story is relatable to even those who haven't survived a shooting or similar trauma. As the opening quote illustrates, anyone whose life hasn't turned out as expected and who has struggled with dissonance in the contradictions of life will find themselves in parts of Taylor's journey.

"The answer to our prayers does not always mean God heals us of the suffering. Sometimes, it means we are sustained through it." Taylor shows us that when we can learn to hold these contradictions and tensions in both hands, we can experience peace.

Something that stood out to me in Taylor's story is how she said the day of the shooting wasn't the worst day of her life. Every day after the pain and trauma continued. The trauma continued in each new way her life was challenged and changed by the effects of the shooting--having to forgo "normal" activities on her honeymoon like swimming, hiding her scars in her wedding photos, struggling with tying her shoes or helping her child get dressed. All of these reminders of the trauma brought fresh grief and pain to the surface.

The way the trauma affected her thinking also helped me understand my clients when they have lived through "worst case scenarios". A major technique in cognitive-behavioral therapy is to challenge client's "irrational" fears by thinking of the low likelihood of worst case scenarios. But when you have lived through one of these unlikely events, what hope do you have left to cling to? When God didn't protect you or save you from the trauma, how do we continue to trust in his goodness and power?

When Thoughts and Prayers helps readers see how "everything happens for a reason" and other platitudes are mostly for our own comfort--so we don't have to face the reality that bad things sometimes happen for no reason. Taylor also challenges the mostly Western belief that our identity and value are tied to our accomplishments at work and progress toward goals. For when our ability to work as we did before is taken from us, where does our worth and value come from?

The research in part two covers domestic violence and firearm suicides; school and mass shootings, the cost of gun violence to communities; arguments against gun reform; and the personal cost of advocating for gun reform. While this section is largely research- and fact-based, I still found it very accessible and relatable. Her presentation of the statistics on the various loopholes and types of background checks with research-supported steps to reduce the violence taught me new arguments in support of gun control.

"I understand why people resort to thoughts and prayers; it is self-perseveration. And it effective for everyone but the victims. In the months after my own experience, this response began to feel increasingly insufficient. As I watched more lives taken and more lives ruined by gun violence, I found little solace in people offering to think and pray."

Taylor's ending brings the issue of gun violence back to our faith and theology to round out the research-based arguments in Part 2. "We are called to fight injustice because it grieves God's heart when any part of our community suffers--whether we experience it personally or not."

When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all should feel that suffering. And we should all be compelled to respond. Taylor's story prompted me to think and pray a lot--but I want it to also prompt me to act.
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Taylor shares her story with honesty and vulnerability. The first half of the book is her story of getting shot during a  shooting at her work, as well as her sharing the aftermath of that day and how she processed what she had experienced. In the second half of the book, Taylor shares compelling statistics and information about current gun laws in America, making a strong argument for the need for gun reform. From page one Taylor does not shy away from her feelings and beliefs about guns, but she is so gracious and kind throughout the book. She shares with nuance and acknowledges that just having no guns is not an adequate answer to the problems we are experiencing in this country. No matter what side of the gun debate you fall on, I highly recommend this book!
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For such a polarizing topic, it strikes me that the first words I think of after reading the final page of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" are: vulnerable, honest, well-researched, gracious, 

Will every reader bring their own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs to this book? Absolutely. Will some read exactly what they pre-plan to read into this book? Sure. What I found in Taylor Schumann's words, though, is not an author who desires to convince all readers to think/believe just like her, but one who shares her story (bravely, I would add, as I must imagine it's difficult to relive in order to tell) and seeks to provide a compilation of research so that *the reader* can think/believe for themselves.

Perhaps one of the greatest compliments I can give a book is that it truly made me think. This title does that, so much so  that I found myself setting the book down a few times and returning to it days later. The story is compelling, but because the subject matter is heavy, it may require time to process and consider. I would strongly urge readers to read until the very end, even if a break is needed, as I found each chapter to be necessary in the telling of the entire manuscript.

The first half of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" focuses on Taylor's experience with gun violence (please note the trauma warning below). Somehow, Taylor is removed enough to offer perspective, while still close enough to the shooting for her words to be raw and vulnerable. This is a difficult balance to strike for any writer, and I applaud her for doing so.

The second half of the book focuses on different aspects of gun violence. There are hundreds of notes at the back of the book from Taylor's research, so I'll let that speak for itself, and will simply say that it strikes me that Taylor never suggests getting rid of guns. I'd imagine that her biggest critiques will be those who try to attack her position on gun reform, or perhaps say that she shows bias throughout the book. While I'll give that she does share her opinion (which she is entitled to do in her own book about gun violence, particularly as someone who deals every day with the reality of being a shooting survivor), the main point that I gathered is a wrestling with the question of "how can we prevent gun violence?" Not "how can we get rid of guns?". In other words, Taylor comes across to me as someone who desperately wants those who have guns to use them wisely and safely. 

Toward the end of the book, Taylor gives several specific ways, all based on research, that America could lower the rate of gun violence. Not get rid of guns, not take guns away from everyone who has one or more, not quit making and selling guns -- but measures/steps that could be taken to lower the rate of suicides, help prevent children from firing a loaded gun that they thought to be a toy, etc. She also speaks directly to Christians, and though she doesn't write in a way that pushes her faith (in my opinion), I found this section to be moving.

It's a heavy topic and therefore a difficult read, but in summary, I would say that "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" is compelling, not condemning.

4.5/5 stars. (I was provided an ARC and there are a dozen typos/misspelled words as well as a repeated story. I assume this will be caught before it goes to print, in which case I would say 5/5.)

Trauma warning: For those who have personally experienced gun violence, this may be a comfort ("I'm not alone" etc). It might, however, be too much. I did not personally find the re-telling to be too graphic or detailed, but it is not a light or easy read. If I had experienced something similar, this might be a book I'd need to skip entirely or set aside for later.
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"When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" is, unfortunately, a very timely read. In her book, Taylor Schumann does a wonderful job of getting across the point that action is needed to prevent the mass shootings that the US has had too many of. Schumann begins her book by telling the story of the workplace shooting in which she was a victim. With her honesty and full transparency, the fear is almost palpable. She continues by sharing about the time she had to spend in the hospital, the numerous surgeries she endured, and the lifelong pain with which she will have to live.

The book continues with plenty of facts and figures to prove that these shootings are a massive issue that must be rectified. Schumann does a great job of making these facts easy to understand and not dry or boring. Finally, the book concludes with some ideas of how everyday Americans can make their voices heard and help prevent these awful acts.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
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I can’t remember the last time I highlighted so many sentences in a book. The first half was such a vulnerable and moving memoir, and the second half was full of helpful data, logic, and practical steps. I will be recommending this book to many people in the future as a thought-provoking, God-honoring, and nuanced perspective on a very emotionally-charged issue.
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I expected When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough to be good - and it is certainly that. It's full of good information, good storytelling and good arguments for why the Christian church should be actively caring about the issue of gun violence. The writing? The writing is not just good. The writing is excellent. Taylor crafts an incredibly compelling and page-turning read on a very difficult, heartbreaking and polarizing topic that many of us want to stay far away from. Reader beware: you will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to gun violence after reading When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough.
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I have gun-related secondary PTSD following the shooting death of a student of mine and I worried I wouldn't be able to make it through reading this book, as much as I wanted to. However, Schumann treats possible triggers with grace and generosity; as someone who is living through those triggers herself, she understands what readers could be going through as they take in her story. I learned so much about PTSD and grief from the first half of the book in which she shares her particular journey. The second half is more broad and explores how to have productive conversations about gun control. I grew up in a very conservative (both politically and religiously), gun-owning family, and appreciate the author's prompts to continue to approach such a fraught topic with both boundaries and kindness. Highly recommended.
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Taylor S. Schumann was already an empathetic person before the April 2013 shooting at a college in Christiansburg, Virginia that would alter the course of her life both in the short-term and in the long-term.

As school shootings go, the event went relatively unnoticed except for those immediately involved and those in and around Virginia. These days, it seems like if it's not a mass event with mass casualties we hardly take notice.

In this case, Schumann was one of two victims - both survived the attack by an 18-year-old gunman who was captured and disarmed by an unarmed man. Schumann's injuries were the kind of injuries where you're tempted to say to yourself "Wow, you got lucky. It was just your hand." I mean, heck, I lost my own left leg last year and even I get people looking at me and saying "It could have been worse."

Schumann is, of course, aware that it could have been worse but that doesn't change the impact of the shooting itself including a significant and lasting physical injury that has resulted in multiple surgeries and a likely permanent impact. The shooting happened right before Schumann's wedding to Eric, a wedding that went on as scheduled with a marked impact that is noted simply yet powerfully in the pages of Schumann's memoir meets manifesto "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough: A Shooting Survivor's Journey Into the Realities of Gun Violence."

The timing of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" is perhaps sublime. Schumann is several years away from her shooting event. She's married now, to Eric, and they have a child and a life back in Virginia. She's devoted herself to her healing journey, emotionally and physically, and she's also increasingly committed herself to involvement in the issue of gun violence and gun reform while also committing herself to the often frustrating journey of getting the church involved in the issue.

"When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" is far enough away from Schumann's incident that we can understand and feel her subsequent journey, yet it's also in many ways close enough that there's a rawness in the pages of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" that you can't help but ache for Schumann and the ways in which this one small piece of one day in her life has imprinted itself like a quilted square on the tapestry of her life.

These types of incidents can, of course, detour one's life to just the opposite direction. An already empathetic Schumann became more empathetic. She moved from someone who might read about such an incident and say "I'm going to pray" to someone who says "I want to do much more because that's what I believe Jesus would do."

There are those, of course, who would disagree with her. She believes they are wrong and has zero hesitation to say so.

As someone who has long been engaged in violence prevention activism, I most resonated with the beauty and wonder of the first half of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough," the portion of the book during which Schumann largely shares her own story from before the day of her shooting to the shooting itself and finally to the days, weeks, and months that followed of healing and, at times, realizing that she's now a different woman from the person who was innocently at work when an 18-year-old college student aimed a shotgun at her and pulled the trigger.

What some may see as a "lucky" incident because she survived has, in fact, altered the course of her life, her love, her activism, her parenting, and many of her relationships.

With the second half of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough," Schumann largely devotes herself to the realities of gun violence itself and her own shift into activism. While these chapters are equally as engaging and the balance of them within the entirety of the book is quite remarkable, as an existing activist I found them perhaps slightly less involving simply because I was largely dealing with familiar information and familiar arguments for which I'm already in agreement.

While I found the early chapters of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" emotionally resonant and immersive and often requiring stops and starts for my own self-care, the latter chapters of the book I read more breezily and found myself mumbling "I Agree" or "You go, girl!"

They are both powerful, but there's an exhilarating strength and vulnerability in the more memoirish parts of "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" that really grabbed me and refused to let me go.

It's hard to say if "When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough" will change hearts or minds about the issues involved with gun violence and gun reform, but Schumann has done the Christian church and society as a whole a tremendous favor by writing this, you guessed it, memoir meets manifesto with equal parts vulnerability and strength, intelligence and empathy. She beautifully and courageously shares her own story, then she allows that story to grow her into the woman she's become and becoming and wonderfully constructs an intelligent, informed, and compassionate discussion about gun violence in America.

It's a discussion we need to have and Schumann is clearly ready to be a part of it all.
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