The title, artwork and back cover synopsis of GPS: Your Guide Through Personal Storms portend a useful, secular guide of life lessons from Dr. James Coyle, a chaplain, trauma counselor, and first responder who has helped victims around the world in the aftermath of tornadoes, bombings and other disasters. As he notes in Chapter 1, “We are either driving into a storm, driving in a storm, or driving out of a storm.”
At first, the book stays on course, with motivational tips and true stories, such as the one about a woman who lost her children, both legs, and one arm during the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 but managed to keep smiling. Coyle’s brief mentions of his own ordeals—the death of his father, a divorce, a suicide attempt—add depth and vulnerability to his articulate prose. But despite the message of hope that permeates GPS, the book is still more about preparing for storms when the sun is shining, not surviving them once they hit.
As GPS progresses, the disconnect widens between what it promises and what it delivers. The book’s second half, which is sharply different from the first, is a collection of one-page “Tools 4 Life” for living in tune with God, with numerous biblical references. Readers expecting substantial advice for dealing with life’s toughest challenges may be disappointed in Coyle’s decision to preach to them about building character, forgiving others, knowing their core values and so on, rather than to offer specific ways to weather life’s storms.
As someone who’s seen true desperation in his work as a first responder, Coyle must undoubtedly relate well to those who are suffering, yet this rarely comes across in his generic advice. Someone who’s just lost a spouse, job or home is generally in survival mode, not seeking opportunities for personal growth. As such, this book is built more for readers seeking general life advice, rather than those in a crisis mode.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.