Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby was the second book I read during my trip to Finland. I started Joni & Ken while I was in Joensuu. I first learned of Joni Eareckson at church in the seventies, and I read her first two books Joni and A Step Further. In Joni & Ken, the Tadas told the story of their first meeting and courtship and eventual marriage in 1982. During their marriage they have had to endure Joni’s quadriplegia, her chronic pain and breast cancer and Ken’s battles with depression. It is an inspirational love story, wherein the couple reveals their weaknesses and stumbles and how they turned it all around to come out stronger in the end:
“It is a love story about Ken and me,” Joni replied, “but it’s also a love story about Jesus. It’s about getting closer to Christ, and experiencing Him in a way beyond anything we had experienced before. He pushed us out of the shallows in our marriage to unfathomable depths–and it was frightening. But now we know His arms have been underneath us, holding us up all the way along.”
Joni and Ken’s story was told in the third person, flowing evenly by the pen of Larry Libby. He had to sort through many oral reminiscences and it would have been an awkward mishmash of a read had there been three separate authors involved. Nevertheless at times it did seem jarring to read about Joni and Ken in the third person when knowing they had a role in “writing” the book about themselves.
The daily ins and outs of being married to a quadriplegic is dealt with, in all the dirty contexts you can imagine. I am sure that in spite of our admiration of Joni and her remarkable life, some of us have personal questions that we might be ashamed to have yet which we still wonder about. Joni addresses some of them as just another part of her and Ken’s story (like how Joni goes to the bathroom) yet some topics she hints at yet never addresses directly, because, after all, it is none of our business (such as details about her and Ken’s sex life). Some of the more unpleasant details of living with quadriplegia were written in order to show Ken the life he would be leading if he married Joni. He might be able to handle bathroom visits and emptying Joni’s leg bag for a while, but this dirty work is a commitment for life. Did he know what he was getting into?
When Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer, she took it as another trial. Quadriplegia and chronic pain are only two other trials Joni has endured. So what’s cancer on top of that? Others might have cursed the disease and the ravages it does to the body through a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Not Joni. She looked at her cancer as a blessing from God, as the ordeal brought her closer to Ken and strengthened their marriage, making their love stronger for each other than when they were first married. She and Ken felt truly blessed to be together as they thoroughly committed to one another in battling this disease. It was hard not to feel touched by the enduring love that Joni and Ken feel for one another.