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The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith, and Life in Between

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  52 reviews
What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable?

All Janine Urbaniak Reid ever wanted was for everyone she loved to be okay so she might relax and maybe be happy. Her life strategy was simple: do everything right. This included trying to be the perfect mother to her three kids so they would never experience the k
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 12th 2020 by Thomas Nelson
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable? Thank you @thomasnelson and @tlcbooktours for sending me The Opposite of Certainty by @janineurbaniakreid. What a timely book as our nation and the entire globe navigates together this time of uncertainty.
When @annelamott writes the forward to a book, you have to read it. A couple quotes grabbed me from her forward. 💖💖
“God comes to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
Jennifer Jenkinson
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoy medical memoirs, this book is for you. If you are a perfectionist, this book is also for you. I personally struggle with wanting life for my family “just so” and this book beautifully illustrates the freedom in letting go of the past and living in the present. The writing was excellent and I would love to read more by this author.

I will be posting a review on my blog shortly.
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most real feeling book that I have read in a long while. the fact that Janine shared her family story was inspiring. I felt for her son, Mason. Yet, the chipper attitude that Mason maintained despite his situation was uplifting.

What I liked about this book was the fact that Janine did not sugarcoat her son's cancer or the feelings that she was experiencing. Janine was not happy or thinking positive thoughts all the time. She was worried, upset, frustrated, and thankful when M
Judith A. Reinsberg
This was an amazing story to read. It was difficult for me, at times, to continue, because my heart was breaking for Janine, her husband, children and especially Mason. We almost lost our daughter to an eating disorder many years ago and this stirred up some very traumatic memories. My husband actually told me to put the book aside, as life right now with Covid, is difficult enough, but I had to persevere and keep reading. This is a beautifully written testament to the strength of a family and t ...more
Leighellen Landskov
May 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2020, own, memoir
It is always tough to "rate" a memoir. This is someone's actual life experience and my opinion on the matter doesn't change what happed to them. But I did want so much more from this book.

This is the account of one woman's life as she deals with the diagnosis, procedures, and multiple life changes that come about after they find out her son has a brain tumor. For such a short book, it covers a broad time period - from when her son was little and she saw the first signs of hand tremors to when h
Living My Best Book Life
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
The Opposite of Certainty is a great read that shows us that we are stronger than we know, especially when we face tough times. Janine details the experience of finding out about her son's brain tumor, learning how to cope with her emotions, and trying to stay strong through it all.

Janine starts out by taking her son Mason to get a check-up for some tremors. She knew and felt that something was wrong but tests came back negative. After living a pretty normal life, she noticed that her son's symp
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
From the opening line, I found this mom’s story instantly relatable – “I want to tell this story as if it happened to someone else,” she writes – and from reading about an experience that includes dealing with a child’s illness, it is easy to see why a parent might want to remove themselves from the narrative.
Her introspection answers questions posed to her: “What did you do to make God so mad at you?” What did you do wrong that caused your child to be sick?

Despite the difficult subject matter
Jamele (BookswithJams)
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: partner
This is a beautifully written, honest account of thinking you have everything under control, and then you hear the words that your child has cancer. And still trying to control things from there. I cannot fathom how I would handle that news, but I can absolutely relate to 'knowing better than God' as He has better things to worry about, so I'll just take it from here, thank you very much. I think that Janine said it best in here, it was something to the effect of, yes I trust God, I just don't t ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Opposite of Certainty is such a wonderful title. This memoir tells the story of a mom who is so sure she has the path figured out -- to be the perfect mother and to do everything right, so that her children do not experience the pain she did as a child. The security and trajectory of her life and her family's life is pretty clear. When her teenage son's hand begins to tremor and his headaches get worse, this leads to an entirely new path, one of worry and fear and frustration and no clear an ...more
Sara Strand
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh man. This book is an emotional roller-coaster, especially if you're a mom and you can't even fathom hearing that your child has cancer. You go through this book feeling what she's feeling and it is so hard to put down. Almost like if you put this down something awful is going to happen to Mason. Personally I have been through a significant trauma and I really identified with a lot of her feelings throughout and that just really hit home for me.

I'll have a full, more in-depth review on my blo
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really 3.5 for me. This was an interesting book for me to read. Mason is a young boy with a brain tumor and his mother details his journey. I could relate to both Mason and his mother and what they were both feeling as I traveled a journey of a brain cancer as well. People tell you how brave you are but really you put one foot in front of the next each day. Both Mason and my journey traveled to a good space.
Rendi Hahn
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
What do you do when the bottom falls out of your "perfect" and predictable life? Author Janine Reid takes on this question as she shares her family's journey of faith in the midst of health crises that turned their lives upside down. She is very transparent about her own struggles and the impact of a devastating diagnosis on the entire family. Sometimes faith holds on by a thread ... but it does hold on. ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a memoir about the journey of a well off mother coping with her child’s cancer and it’s impact on her and her family. It’s certainly heartbreaking and reels my attention but I did not feel that it lived up to the power or depth implied in the description. The glowing endorsement by Anne Lamont (one of the author’s best friends) stating that this is the book for these uncertain times left me expecting more.
Kate (kate_reads_)
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
2020 has been a year of collective uncertainty - we have all had to deal with disappointment and change and being forced to let go of our plans for what we thought this year would look like.

In The Opposite of Certainty, Janine Urbaniak Reid shares with us her experience of letting go of perfection when her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I listened to the audiobook and it felt like a good friend sharing her experiences. While this was written before this year, I couldn’t help but draw com
Monica Snyder
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
From the moment Danica’s head fell crooked I was thrust into the frightening and lonely life of following my mama gut and fighting for the best neurosurgical care for my girl. I’ve never read a memoir that so genuinely reflected the excruciating details of this hard as well as the complicated relationship to one’s self in this mother sacrifice. The marriage thread will stay with me most. I finished and immediately gave it to my husband to read.
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a clear eyed account of a family life that is turned upside down when one of the kids is diagnosed with a life threatening disease... one that is misunderstood and dodgy and doesn’t follow a predictable path.

I discovered this book through an Anne Lamott recommendation - turns out Anne is a good friend of the author and walked along side her during Mason’s journey.

There is so many things I loved about this book...
I loved Janine’s candid portrayal of a mom’s authentic and vulnerable sel
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, book-club
This book read like a journal to me. It had the chronological play by play and some introspection, but I kept wanting to press pause and ask the author to talk more about this or that epiphany she had had or something that she had learned.
Neelam Babul
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Opposite of Certainty is a poignant and touching memoir that shows us that we are stronger than we know, especially when we go through difficult and adverse situations.

Janine details the experience of finding out about her son's brain tumor, learning how to cope with her emotions, and trying to stay strong through it all in her memoir.

Janine starts out by taking her son Mason to get a check-up for some tremors he has been experiencing. She knew and felt that something was wrong but tests c
Art Fluter
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: being-human
This book is about the spiritual and medical journey Janine went through caring for her son Mason. Mason was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11, went into the ICU at 15, and continues to this day with the damage to his brain. But Janine’s book is about the spiritual journey coming from a near perfect life. The odd thing is her experiences dealing with Mason’s brain tumor provides insight into dealing with Covid-19 right now in mid-2020.

The parallels between the events and feelings in this bo
Tabitha (Tabi Thoughts)
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Opposite of Certainty is a compelling story about strength, faith, and perseverance. Life changed when Janine’s young son, Mason, got sick. Once Mason began experiencing severe migraines and tremors, Janine’s motherly intuition told her something was wrong. But, half the battle was getting a diagnosis. For two years, Mason’s condition worsened as doctors misdiagnosed him. Janine continued to push for answers, but the answer she finally received wasn’t an easy one.

After Mason’s diagnosis, Jan
Jaymi The OC Book Girl
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: publisher-mail
One of the reasons I enjoy memoirs is because I want to understand what keeps a person going, how they are able to continue living AND inspire others. ⁣

“Brain tumors are like snakes. Not all of them are deadly.” ⁣

Janine’s story was full of humor, hope and faith. Her son Mason was misdiagnosed for TWO years! As Janine watches her son and family struggle no matter what she does to keep things together – her own mental and physical health suffers. She doesn’t sugarcoat or hide her feelings and ack
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of a woman who is usually in control and then has to contend with one of her children having a tumor (not a spoiler because this comes very early in the book).

The central theme seems to be her realizing that she cannot control everything that might affect her children. She also grapples with what it means to be a person of faith when bad things happen. A striking subtheme is how insensitive others can be when they encounter suffering.

I did not enjoy this book on several levels.
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The parallels between the events and feelings in this book are similar if not identical to what is going on in life, society, and our personal selves during the Covid-19 pandemic. Janine describes her journey through life taking care of her son Mason (with an inoperable brain tumor), her family, and her life, juggling everything as her formerly secure life changes into something else. The title says it all: once she was certain about the trajectory and quality of her life. Now, not as much certa ...more
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The whole time I was reading this book I just wanted to reach into the book and hug the author. This book takes you on an emotional roller coaster and captures your heart, squeezing it so tight at times I was holding my breath.
Janine becomes concerned when her son complains of headaches and a tremor in his hand cannot be ignored. Although she’s not convinced the doctor is right, she accepts the diagnosis of migraines and a need to lay off the sugary sweets.
Unfortunately they find out very quic
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-books
Excellent memoir of one mother's mission to save and serve her brain damaged child, her family and her marriage! The author sets a VERY HIGH BAR for expectations of herself, having grown up in a home of alcoholics, and this story tells of her struggle to live up to her goals. Fortunately, she has a loving family, a husband who works very hard and earns enough to provide what they want.

One passage sticks with me, and I quote, "I know better than ever that marriage, like cancer and child-rearing,
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite what I expected. Maybe not being a mother, recovering alchoholic, or a Christian, I could not relate that well with much of what she writes. This is a very detailed journal-like autobiography covering the time her son was treated for a brain tumor. She must have kept copious notes to be able to write so many details, which I find odd as it was clearly a very emotional time for her.
I also felt that she was clearly financially privileged to undertake some of the alternative health care t
Carole Duff
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After a brush with alcohol abuse in her teens and early twenties, the author set upon building a life of certainty. She had everything under control until her youngest son’s brain tumor. Giving full attention to her son’s survival, her health, marriage, and two other children suffered. With time, she learned to trust God and live in the present, one day at a time, as recovering alcoholics and recovering control freaks like me must learn.
Liesl Bailey
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
Marked as read, but not finished. I felt I was just reading someone's diary...someone going through an extremely difficult time, but not compelling enough (or unique enough) to hold my attention. The lesson is one many of us have already learned at some point in our lives when faced with a terrifying uncertainty. After finishing a third of the book, I flipped ahead to peruse several more random pages, but the tone was the same. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written by a close friend of Anne Lamont, who was one of the persons who walked with the author through a nine year journey with a young son who had brain cancer. As Anne said in the Foreword, “A brilliant, rich, breathtakingly honest and sometimes very funny account of defying the gravity of circumstances.” A worthwhile read.
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Janine Urbaniak Reid writes about her imperfect life, what connects us, and addresses the question of what it means to love fiercely in a sometimes dangerous and always uncertain world.

She was born in Chicago and grew up in California. She graduated from the University of California at San Diego. She was vice president of a San Francisco public relations firm before she began raising a family, an

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