Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs by Jeni Stepanek

messengerReviewed by Nancy Eaton

Messenger is a book that will bring out many emotions in you as you read each chapter. Yes, it will make you cry but most of all it will make you smile because Mattie was such a special, talented boy.

Mattie and his three younger siblings all had the same disease, Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. Mattie’s siblings died very young. Mattie’s mother developed the adult type of this disease and is now in a wheelchair. Mattie would often wonder if his mother would die before him. As with all other hurdles in his life, Mattie told his mother that if she died before him, he would lock himself in his room for a very long time but eventually he would have to go on and he wanted her to do the same if something happened to him first.

Mattie almost died a month after he was born. There was a chance he might have some brain damage but Mattie came through it all with flying colors and as time went on he did so well in school that he was able to advance to the next grade ahead of time. Jeni stated “we all treated Mattie’s limitations as challenges to be gotten around rather than game changers.”

This young boy had a goal and purpose. He wanted to be a poet, peacemaker and philosopher. Along his journey, he made many friends with people like Jimmy Carter and Oprah Winfrey and won the hearts of millions of people who saw him on television as he read his poems and talked about his goals.

It just amazed me that Mattie, being such a young boy, appreciated so many of the things that we all take for granted. For instance, he was so taken by the sunrise when he and his mom were on vacation. It became a ritual that on their last day of vacation, they would get up early and go out on the pier an hour before sunrise just to watch how beautiful it was to see. This also gave them a special time to talk to each other and they had some very serious conversations.

Thank you Jeni for bringing us into Mattie’s life. We all knew how special he was from his television appearances. However, we did not really know what went on in his life on a daily basis. You provided the detail for us to understand the many good things that happened along Mattie’s journey and showed us the courage Mattie had to deal with the many difficult times in his life. It is very clear that with all the problems Mattie had in his life, he had a great sense of humor. I know one thing – Mattie is one of my heroes!

Messenger is a wonderful book about the legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek. If you have seen Mattie on some of the television shows over the years, this is a must read book.

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