Family Don’t End With Blood, edited by Lynn S. Zubernis, has the subtitle “Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives”, and that does a wonderful job of describing exactly what this book is all about. Compiled and edited by Zubernis, this book is a series of letters and essays from both fans of the CW hit tv show, Supernatural, and actual cast and crew members of the same. With the general topic of “how the show changed my life”, these stories range from “I’ve had some of the best times of my life working on the show” to “the show literally saved my life“, and because a chapter of the book, in turn, helped to change my life, I felt it pertinent that I focus on it for my first ever book review.
I assume that this is pretty much a given, but this book is obviously directed mainly at fans of Supernatural, and those are definitely going to be the readers who most enjoy it. That said, after having read the book I can honestly say that it would be an excellent read for anyone who is looking for an uplifting story. The emotion in the essays within this book is raw and brutally honest. From the cheeriest story about meeting your significant other, to the deepest stories of both physical and psychological health decline, you can tell that each writer wrote from the depth of their being and held nothing back. When hitting a familiar mark with the reader – which is bound to happen with such a wide variety of stories and storytellers – this raw honesty can create one hell of a reaction. Of course, not every individual essay is going to create a deep resonance within the reader, but chances are that if you’ve ever been through any kind of major life change, or hit any kind of particularly rough period in your life, one of the stories within this book is going to hit home in a powerful way.
There were several essays within the book on the broad topic of “belonging” that struck a chord with me, and is something that so many of us struggle with in a variety of ways. Being part of a “fandom” is the common thread throughout these stories, with the overarching lesson that fandom can be an amazing thing, and that finding people who simply love the same show/movie/game/book/whatever that you do can make a huge difference in your life. Hence the idea of the book itself, being that a television show deeply affected peoples’ lives.
But it’s not all just specifically about the show or the fandom, and it’s these outlying stories that can really call out to the reader, in my opinion. In one story, for instance, actor Rob Benedict tells about how he suffered a stroke during a Supernatural convention. The stroke very nearly took his life, but because of the combined efforts of actor/director Richard Speight Jr – who knew Rob enough to know that there was something very wrong with him – and actor Misha Collins – who luckily knew what the signs of a stroke are and urged Richard to take Rob to the hospital – he was under hospital care in barely enough time for his life to be saved, and eventually he was able to regain lost functionality as well. That chapter, aside from simply being an extremely scary-and-yet-inspiring story, really made my heart clench because it reminded me powerfully of how my own cousin saved her boyfriend’s life in a similar manner: by knowing what the signs of a stroke were, despite friends insisting that the barely-20-year-old was simply “really drunk”.
Other stories within the book made me laugh, made my chest hurt, or caused me to have quiet moments of self-reflection as well, but it was the last chapter – the one written by one of the show’s primary stars, Jared Padalecki – that literally changed my life.
For those who don’t know, Jared Padalecki has suffered from depression, a testament to the fact that success and a good life do not mean that a person can not be falling apart on the inside. I don’t want to get deep into exactly what Jared wrote in the final chapter of the book, because it’s honestly the kind of thing that I think should be read and experienced personally without much prior information. However, what I will say is that there was an incident – a simple, unassuming, practically meaningless incident that most people would have gotten upset about in the moment and then laughed about later – and it nearly broke Jared down. And in that story, the way he describes the incident, the way he described exactly how it felt, exactly how his brain was processing it, and what his reactive instincts were in that moment…it was truly as though he was describing any of a hundred different-but-similar moments that I’ve experienced myself over the past half a dozen years. I read this particular chapter of the book on a plane on my way to a job, and I am being absolutely honest and serious when I say that I burst into tears while I was reading it, genuinely frightening and concerning the other passengers nearest me.
But don’t worry…it’s a happy ending, for both Jared’s story and mine, as reading it gave me the courage I needed to finally seek help, and since doing so I have never felt better. For the first time in nearly a decade, I feel good, and it’s all because of a book, written around a tv show that, yeah, I happen to really enjoy. But even if I didn’t love the show as a fan, I’m confident the stories would have touched me in the exact same way.
And that’s the best endorsement that I can give of Family Don’t End With Blood. At its core, it’s a compilation of the hearts and souls of a variety of people who have gone through a variety of life changes. The fact that those changes came as a result of being connected, in some way, with a fun and popular tv show is amazing, but in the end, also consequential. What really matters is the truth and emotion encapsulated in each story, and in that aspect the book truly shines forth. It is a wonderful grouping of stories, at least one of which is guaranteed to touch the reader in one way or another, and I can honestly say that it was a wonderful, compelling read that changed my life.
“Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives” gets two thumbs up and a heaping helping of gratitude from me for helping me do what I’d been avoiding for years. It’s a wonderful read for any Supernatural fan, but would also be a wonderful read for anyone going through a rough time, especially those who have a tough time fitting in or feeling like they belong. Check it out using the link above, and if you’ve read it yourself, feel free to share you thoughts in the comment section below.