Knapsack Journey Home

October Will Never Be the Same

Non-Fiction - Memoir
173 Pages
Reviewed on 07/22/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Knapsack Journey Home: October Will Never Be the Same by Kathleen Janz-Anderson pays tribute to Chad, a generous young man who gave more than was required of him. The memoir is told through Kathleen Janz-Anderson’s personal journal on her heart-breaking journey after her son’s death. On October 14, 2014, Chad passed on, leaving a gap that could never be filled. The traumatic news plunged his family into untold despair. Through the entries made in the journal, Kathleen Janz-Anderson reveals the excruciating pain she continues to experience since her son’s passing. Descriptions of Chad’s life are also included as well as the author’s advice with regard to the grieving process of a parent who has lost their child.

Using diary entries that span various years, the memoir provides a more intimate look into Kathleen Janz-Anderson’s painful experiences. The entries capture the raw emotions that arose after the death of Chad. They also show her feelings month after month, revealing the unbearable pain throughout the process. The work captures the loving relationship between a mother and a son and the difficulty in trying to let go. The many “what if” scenarios that plagued the author’s mind after her son’s death further serve as an eye-opener of the challenges in trying to accept the shock of losing someone close. The memoir is also a testament to Kathleen Janz-Anderson’s strength as she tries to live despite experiencing insurmountable loss. For anyone who has lost a family member, especially a child, Knapsack Journey Home: October Will Never Be the Same serves as a heart-warming reminder that they are not alone and someone understands the pain they are going through.

Gisela Dixon

Knapsack Journey Home: October Will Never Be the Same by Kathleen Janz-Anderson is a memoir about the death of her son Chad and her grieving process. In this book, the author starts off with a brief introduction to the subject. Soon, we are introduced to the birth of her son Chad and her relationship with her husband, which involved severe physical abuse and neglect towards Chad among other things. We then fast forward to the death of Chad in his thirties after he had been suffering from depression for a while and Kathleen’s devastation and grief when she heard the news. The remainder of the book talks about Chad’s relationships, Kathleen’s thoughts on his life and who he was as a person, and as well as a big chunk of “journal” entries where we read about Kathleen’s struggle with his death and the grieving of a mother who has lost her son.

Knapsack Journey Home is an engrossing read and I think it may bring some relief or help to others who have been through something similar in dealing with the death of an adult son or daughter. Kathleen writes in an open and candid style and the memoir can definitely get raw at times as we encounter the devastation and pain of a grieving mother. Obviously, she was in an abusive relationship and Chad came from a dysfunctional family as a result of that, which shows how early influences in life can go on to cause problems well into adulthood. There is a Christian slant in this book and Chad seems to have been influenced by this to the extent of marrying someone to avoid having pre-marital sex, which seems to have led to another dysfunctional cycle. Overall, this may be a helpful memoir for parents going through something similar in life.

Andrae Douglas

Knapsack Journey Home by Kathleen Janz-Anderson is the compelling story of one woman’s loss and how it changed her world forever. Kathleen Janz-Anderson is your typical loving, caring, worrying and supportive mom. Throughout her life, she had faced adversity many times as she was once involved in an abusive relationship with the father of her children. None of these, however, could have prepared her for the untimely death of her son Chad. Kathleen Janz-Anderson, like any mother, found it impossible to cope with the loss of her last child. What makes the situation worse is the fact that she feels and somehow knows deep inside that she could have prevented the death of her beloved Chaddieboy. "October Will Never Be The Same."

“How can anyone go on? Sometimes I feel like screaming so loud that trees uproot and mountains fall.” This excerpt depicts a mother’s anguish and is a true reflection of the intensity of emotions Kathleen Janz-Anderson conveys in Knapsack Journey Home. I found this memoir to be interesting and unique as Janz-Anderson gives us a peek into her diary and a firsthand look at her most intimate journal entries. I have sheer admiration for Janz-Anderson, the unwavering manner in which she mourns Chad, keeps his legacy alive while giving and receiving love from her other children. Knowing this is no ordinary journey, Kathleen Janz-Anderson gathers all her strength and courage and fills her knapsack with five-star emotions that certainly hit home.

Asher Syed

Knapsack Journey Home: October Will Never Be the Same by Kathleen Janz-Anderson is the author's personal memoir, recounting life with her son Chad. The timeline of the book progresses naturally as Janz-Anderson begins with a narrative about the son who almost never was, and progresses through their early life together with Chad's father, a Vietnam vet who'd served two tours. From there we are brought to his untimely death, and the book transitions into a mother's devastation, reflections, and trying to come to terms with what happened through writing poetry and detailed journal entries, which she shares with her own faith-based narrative. “On October 14, 2014, at 11:15 p.m. For all the times my intuition was right on, I had no inkling these were my last few moments knowing the innocence of pure happiness and joy.”

Knapsack Journey Home is intensely heartbreaking and remarkably inspiring at the same time. Kathleen Janz-Anderson bares her entire soul in all of its fragments to elicit the empathy she so desperately searched for in other books following her son's death. Her writing is raw and poignant as she shares the pain no mother should ever have to endure but is equally hopeful in the way she approaches a healing process that never ends—one in which she is certain she will be reconnected in heaven with Chad again. Often writing reviews for memoirs can be tricky because it can feel like judgment is being passed on the life and experiences of the author. Thankfully, Janz-Anderson makes it easy with fluid writing, vivid and precise diary entries, everything a reader looks for in books about tragic loss. I am humbled to have been invited to read this story...I only wish it hadn't needed to be written in the first place.