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Beauty Beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope After Crisis    by Cheryl McGuinness & Lois Rabey order for
Beauty Beyond the Ashes
by Cheryl McGuinness
Order:  USA  Can
Howard, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

It is the morning of September 11th, 2001, the day after the author celebrated her husband Tom's forty-second birthday, a routine morning with clear, sunny skies. Tom McGuinness travels from his home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire arriving at Boston's Logan Airport to pilot for American Airlines. Cheryl McGuinness drives Jennifer and Tommy, Jr. to school, returning home to relax on the deck. Telephone calls begin ... friends suggesting that Cheryl turn on the television. Within the hour, the McGuinness home fills with family and friends, surrounding the author with loving, caring support. Tom's American Airlines Flight 11 had just 'slammed' into the first World Trade Center Tower, Lower West Side Manhattan, New York City.

After McGuiness's introduction, she divides chapters into two parts. Part one tells the story of Cheryl, Tom, Jennifer, and Tommy, Jr., family and friends, and the progression of life before and after 9/11. Part two discusses biblical 'principles', e.g. 'God knows us intimately ... Painful losses occur right in the middle of wonderful times', and 'God is at work in your life even when you’re too busy to notice.' Initial chapters introduce basic Christian principles, followed by those providing guidance for growth in faith. McGuinness touches upon darker moments in the recovery process, never losing sight of hope. In Chapter 7, Jennifer and Tommy tell their stories, explaining the meaning of family traditions for 'Gifts From the Heart' and 'Caught You Being Good Coupons'. Black and white family photos are included.

Cheryl was born into an Italian family of five girls. In her high school sophomore days, she met senior student Tom McGuinness, in a 'high school sweethearts' story. Cheryl graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in human resources. She balanced her corporate career and family life with Tom's Navy career absences. Tom came from an Irish family, and graduated from Boston University in 1981 with a degree in psychology. He entered the U.S. Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, Florida. Assigned later to Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, Tom piloted F14's, taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier. Tom entered The Navy Flight Weapons School, a.k.a. 'Top Gun', among the highest standing pilots of the force. Eventually, Tom left the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander and entered the next phase of his life as an airlines pilot.

Cheryl is now a sought-after speaker, sharing her story and inspiring audiences. She accepts news interviews and speaking engagements, with the stipulation that she will be allowed to talk of her faith in God. Cheryl feels that her principles can be applied to anyone who has suffered loss in situations including divorce, long illness, death, and violence. The name of her ministry, which is also the title of this book, developed when Cheryl gave thought to rising above the ashes in her heart. Her book is a touching, personal account of the loss of her husband, balanced with a continuing spiritual journey. Cheryl admits she is 'learning to forgive', and though her faith may seem simple to some, both Christian and non-Christian readers will admire the courage and grace with which McGuinness has chosen to respond to and relate her tragedy.

The book is filled with honesty, candor, and love, which McGuinness shares unselfishly. Readers will admire her courage in coping with loss, the adjustment of a family of four to a family of three, and her testimony to a strong belief in God. The beauty of the author's words are exemplified in 'We do not walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone. God was with us through all the wonderful people He brought into our lives. He still is.' Cheryl speaks to each of us: 'My prayer is that you will also come to know hope, not despair, courage, not fear, love, not hate.' Beauty Beyond the Ashes is recommended to anyone touched directly or indirectly by 9/11 (young adults and adults, loss-coping groups and individuals) and to church-study groups.

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