28 September 2010

Repairing Rainbows, by Lynda Fishman

Book Review
Sixteen seconds is a very long time.  Time it yourself.

On July 5, 1970, an Air Canada flight crashed with 109 passengers on board.  For sixteen seconds of that flight, the passengers knew that they were going to crash.  There were no survivors.  Ms. Fishman's mother, Rita, and two younger sisters, Carla and Wendy, were on that flight.  In that moment, it became just her and her father, when once they were a family of five.

The author contacted me last month and inquired if I'd be interested in reading her book. After reviewing the website for her self-published memoir Repairing Rainbows, I was worried about the responsibility of reading such an important topic and reviewing it.

But, I shouldn't have worried.  Although it is an incredibly tough topic, the book is written easily and as though it's being told in conversation.  It establishes quickly the close-knit family that they once were. Even the dedication page pulled me in. Dedicated to her mother and two younger sisters, it lists each of their dates of birth and dates of passing of July 5, 1970. But for her father, there is something unique that intrigued me - his date of birth is listed, but there are two dates to signify his passing. One for the date of the horrific crash taking more than half his family in one moment, and the second for the date of when he actually passed 29 years later.

The author had essentially lost her entire family on the day of that crash.  As she phrased it, "officially" losing her mother and two sisters, and "unofficially" losing her father.  The story is one that captures her growth from the young girl on "that day," into who she is now, and the steps she needed to take in order to live.  She didn't want to simply exist, and nor would her mother and little sisters wanted that.  I also think that even though she felt the presence of her loved ones in simple and small things that surrounded her in her day-to-day life, her littlest sister, Wendy, probably would have been the most adamant and made her presence known even more had the author not taken the steps move forward in her life -- what a personality in Wendy!  But her father became broken, struggling and only existing.  His decisions were not ones that he would have made before, and the author is open and honest in her frustrations.

I went through the entire range of emotions throughout this book -- shock and numbness when the news was relayed, the complete horror and despair at the sounds of sadness and misery emitting from her broken father, to anger at Air Canada for their complete lack of sensitivity for the families of the victims.

And then I found something else I kept asking.  How can a book about such a tragic event in history that affected so many people's lives be such an incredibly hopeful story about life with a powerful message?  I anticipated feeling the sadness and frustration on what happened, but this book is about so much more than tragedy -- there is family, love, hope, and most especially, choice.  That decision to simply exist or to actually live life.  While her father couldn't move past that terrible day, she did so that she could establish her own place, to continue the legacy of her mother and two younger sisters with her own family and with her husband who has his own amazing story to share.  This is a powerful reminder to enjoy all of our own distinct places in life -- and how we can either choose to live it, or we can simply choose to have life pass us by.  I am incredibly grateful that I had a chance to read this, and feel privileged to be able to share with you an interview with the author.

Author Interview
Lynda Fishman is a trained clinical social worker who has spent the last 20 years as a camp director and runs her own day camp, Adventure Valley.  She has published articles and training manuals on leadership, teamwork, bullying, trust, childhood heath and wellness, communication and customer service.  This is her first full length book.

Q- What made you truly decide to write this in November 2008? You had already been contacted by another author, but you wanted to tell your story yourself. What was it that finally made you decide that the time to tell this story was now?

A- Our family business (summer day camp) was finally on solid ground, and for the first time in my adult life, I really didn’t have anything pressing to do. For me, too much time to “think” can be emotionally risky. I also know that I thrive on being busy. In fact, I believe that the greatest gift we can give to ourselves is a project or activity that keeps us busy and is pleasurable at the same time. As soon as I realized that I had plenty of free time, I decided to start writing the book that I had written over and over again in my head for so many years.

Q- Next to family, clearly, you have devoted your life through your day camp to help others, and this is your life’s passion. As a clinical social worker with twenty years of experience, are you interested in, or have you already done counseling work for the families of airplane crash victims or any other catastrophes?

A- Running a large summer camp has given me the chance to meet and get to know an enormous number of individuals and families. I have never worked with any families of plane crash victims, but in my role as a camp director, I’ve had the opportunity to provide support and counselling to many people struggling with a wide range of issues, loss, trauma or crisis.

Q- You’re very open to the signs that people talk about receiving and feeling from their loved ones who have passed on, and you have also experienced this yourself. The skeptics are always out there -- being a clinical social worker, how do you distinguish between actually seeing signs from loved ones, to simply wanting to see something?

A- Having combined my clinical training with my life experience and spirituality, I believe that we can and should choose HOW to look at any situation, no matter what it is. We can choose thoughts that are inspiring and empowering – thoughts that make us feel good. We can think about ways to persevere and overcome, or we can become victims. We can think about our life as a gift, or we can view it as a punishment. We can go through life with determination and zest, or drag ourselves through every day as if we are tied to a ball and chain.

I choose to look at life through rose-colored glasses. For me, that means I choose to take a favourable view, even if I have to grasp at straws to find a glimmer of positivity. I will find a way to focus on the positives, look at the bright side, expect the best, and somehow remain optimistic.
I choose hope instead of despair.
I choose acceptance as opposed to judgment or rejection.
Forgiveness feels much better than holding a grudge.
Recognizing opportunities to learn and grow outweighs the burden of guilt and regret.
Truth and honesty are way easier than lies.
I choose gratitude and appreciation rather than greed and jealousy.
I choose happiness for others, instead of envy.
I much prefer being upbeat and joyful, compared to down and miserable.
I choose to smile.
I choose to laugh.
I choose to live.

Looking back and reflecting on that time as a thirteen year old, when my whole life came to a disastrous halt, I now understand and fully believe in the power of choosing our thoughts. After losing my mother and two little sisters in a plane crash, I was able to move forward, taking baby steps, because I chose hope. I refused to give up. I replaced fear and panic with hope and dreams. I never let go of my trust and faith in the future. I found positive things to focus on. I avoided miserable people. I admired the colours of flowers, trees, birds and rainbows.

I really listened to songs, finding words and messages that were happy and meaningful. I watched movies with happy endings, and read feel-good books.

I spent time around animals noticing their joy and appreciation for everything – a walk in the park, the chance to play, a bowl of kibble.
I don’t live in a dream world. I am not na├»ve. I’ve enjoyed tremendous personal and professional success. The life lessons I share come from well earned experience. And I do live by the words in Carole King’s song, Beautiful:

You've got to get up every morning
With a smile on your face
And show the world, all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful as you feel

Q- Do you feel that airlines today have changed from their approach to sensitivity in dealing with the families of victims then they were forty years ago?

A- I believe that nowadays, media and technology have empowered individuals, so that big companies have to be very careful about how they deal with people, particularly in crisis situations. There is finally a zero tolerance for bullying. The airline industry now uses PR firms to guide them in doing whatever they have to do to appear compassionate and caring in their responses.  
Q- Have you had any responses of your book by Air Canada?

A- One of the senior executives of Air Canada ordered the book from the Repairing Rainbows website in early July and had it shipped to his home. However, I have never heard from him or from any executive at Air Canada. I have received numerous “confidential” emails from Air Canada flight attendants, ground employees and even a few pilots, with consistently compassionate and supportive messages.

Visit the author's site at Repairing Rainbows. 

Happy reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick


  1. This sound so powerful. Thank you for the review and Q&A.

  2. This sounds quite interesting. Thanks for the review.

  3. Wow, what a story. I cannot imagine the pain her father must have had to work through.

  4. Wow, what a strong woman she is! I can't imagine losing more than half my family in a single moment. This sounds like an excellent memoir!

  5. I can understand why you were hesitant to review this, as it is such a difficult subject matter considering the author lost pretty much her whole family. I am glad you liked it.

  6. Wow, sounds like she has an amazing story to tell. Great review & interview!

  7. Sounds like a powerful book. I will be on the lookout for it. Remarkable woman.

  8. A positive strong person who is forward thinking, spiritual and who has done a great job at putting her life together and just living!!!

  9. I can't imagine the impact this accident must have had on Lynda's life and have to agree that this sounds like a heartbreaking and sobering read. I do think that this book would be of interest to me, so I will have to try to check it out. Great review and author Q and A, Natalie!

  10. Sounds like a tough book to read, but a good reminder to enjoy the life we have now.

  11. What a fascinating story. I always find people who are able to life themselves up from situations like this to be so inspiring. I loved the interview as well. Great post.

  12. What a profound story and hopeful too. Incredible!

  13. I stopped by to thank you for commenting on "The Marmelade Gypsy" -- but this review is fascinating. It sounds like something I would love to read and had never heard of. Beautifully written and explored. Nice.

  14. Wow ... what a story. What a gift that she was able to turn such a tragedy into something positive to share with others. Such a shame that her father suffered two deaths ... that is more than anyone should have to face.

    Very well done review and interview. It was quite inspiring.

  15. I too would have been overwhelmed by the prospects of reading this one - even more so to have been asked to do it by the author. Your review is fabulous and her experiences and choices are to be honoured. I love your interview with her too. As someone who has spent years working with other people's life trauma's, I tend to try and stay away from books like this, however I feel complelled to read this one.. thanks so much for actually reading it.

  16. I have this book on my shelves and you made me want to bump it up on my schedule. Wonderful post!

  17. Repairing Rainbows looks like an interesting story, but sounds heartbreaking. Great review and Q&A!

  18. This sounds like a really powerful story; thanks for bringing it to m attention.

  19. THANKS, EVERYONE! -- As always, thanking you all for hopping onto the site and letting me know how you feel about a book or a review, or anything at all! We love comments!

    Ms. Fishman's story is incredibly profound and i'm so happy that you all were to get that based on my review -- as this is a self-published novel, it's limited as to where you can order it. Jumping onto the site in the post is probably the best way to link to where you can order it. I think it's not yet sold in the US at this time.


  20. Incredible review!! I must read this memoir.....

  21. What a great interview! She sounds so strong for a girl at 13 to have made those conscious decisions. It makes me stop and appreciate my family and the life we have. And you're review of the book was so good. It must have been hard to review, but you did a good job. You made it sound like something I'd like to read.

    Great job!