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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Success Against the Odds: What Interesting People Did is a religious, philosophical, and spiritual introspection by Jane Raleigh that recounts the challenges faced by historical individuals that have transcended time. Raleigh’s relatively short book is divided into two parts: What Interesting People Did and The Jesus Factor. The “interesting people” highlighted by the author are Joseph Ben Matthias, a Jewish priest, scholar, and historian, at one point vehemently hated and viewed as a traitor by his fellow Jews and only tolerated by the Romans when he became an advisor to Titus; Judith of Bethulia, who some call a saint, risking her life to save the people of Judah, while others accused her of being a bold-faced liar and ruthless assassin; beautiful Esther, beloved niece of Mordecai and Artaxerxes’ queen; and finally, the Jewish scholar Gamaliel. All were controversial figures in history who overcame unspeakable danger, adversity, and oftentimes hate in order to survive – and subsequently thrive.
Raleigh reminds us that such challenges sadly transcend time and are just as relevant today as they were so long ago. For many young people, the world appears overwhelming because the pressure to gain traction and to appear relevant causes constant stress instead of appreciating the dawning of a new day as an opportunity to pursue new challenges and opportunities. Some would argue that the age-old messages of treating other people the same way you’d want to be treated yourself and needing to first respect yourself before you can respect and love someone else are trite adages while devout others believe them to be spiritual and necessary religious tenets by which to live and conduct one’s life with meaning.
Success Against the Odds reminds us that if there was such a thing as a perfect world, we wouldn’t need free will because there would be no daily struggles with which to contend and that woven within creation is the element of chance which can be considered a corollary to fate since the choices one makes either direct one’s life positively or, in the case of poor or wrong choices, allow fate to close in, making the business of living spiritually and organically all the more difficult. There is arguably a certain beauty to Raleigh’s words and a purity to her soul that comes across in her narrative – whether or not one believes that “the Jesus factor” plays a role in one’s life, or His impact on humanity as a whole. It’s fair to say, however, that Success Against the Odds certainly invites everyone to live their best lives and embrace the challenges before them through faith and spirituality. A thought-provoking book that is as much an introspective into our lives today as it is a look at some fascinating historical figures from our far-flung past.