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Review: Help I’m Drowning by Sally Clarkson

When I was a young mom one of my best homeschooling guides was a book by Sally Clarkson and her husband Clay, Educating the Wholehearted Child.  It helped me so much over the past quarter century that I’ve had a soft spot for Sally ever since.  She has gone on to write books on many other topics and here is the latest: Help! I’m Drowning: Weathering the Storms of Life with Grace and Hope.

I must confess that when I agreed to review Help! I’m Drowning I hardly looked at the title, only at the fact that it was written by Sally Clarkson. If I’d thought about the title, I would not have agreed to review it because I certainly did not feel like I was drowning or even that I needed extra help.

Yet, in God’s providence, the book arrived just before my father died unexpectedly. Even though the whole issue of being overwhelmed pales in comparison to thoughts about life and death, it has been helpful in this hard time.

Sally’s book is an extended chat with her readers, sharing her own life and how she has helped others.  Her goal is to help us learn important truths that took her a lifetime to learn. She wants to bear witness to the truth of the Bible and to teach younger women how to live, both from the Bible and from her personal experience. In Help, I’m Drowning she discusses sadness, loneliness, exhaustion, fear, and disappointment, pointing to God and sharing hard-won lessons.

Each chapter begins with two quotations, one from the Bible, and ends with an anchoring prayer, a scripture selection that is discussed, and an act to take, complete with journaling space.

It’s a privilege to walk along with Sally as she shares lessons learned during her long life of service.  One that she mentions several times was that she, as a young person and a new Christian, naively expected life to be easier, more satisfying, and more controllable.  She was not prepared or equipped for hardship because she did not expect difficult things to happen to her.  This lesson took her years to learn.

I think many of us can identify with Sally on this point. People who know the Bible, who know history, and who humbly believe that a sovereign God works all things, even terribly sad ones, for our good—such people should know better, but so often we forget. So often we are surprised when things are difficult.

Those who cannot identify with that mindset and tend to the opposite extreme, fearing disaster and assuming nothing we do matters, can also learn from Sally.

I must admit that sometimes the tone of Help, I’m Drowning jarred me.  Perhaps it was because the issue of overwhelm pales in comparison with life and death, which were what I was dealing with at the time. Perhaps because, though trying to help women who are drowning, Sally very occasionally sounds superficial.  Perhaps because Sally and I have some theological differences.  Or perhaps, since Sally is a kind person and a godly one, it was just me.

Although it may sound odd, I found that this book paired well with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility which I was rereading at the same time.

Is Help, I’m Drowning a worthwhile book? It can be for anyone in this culture who feels pressured by the need to be perfect, to do it all, to feel fulfilled.  These are issues Sally addresses from the experience of a long life lived for God.  (A younger woman’s take on these questions, which I recommend, is You Who? by Rachel Jankovich.)

If you are keeping up with your Bible reading, Help, I’m Drowning may benefit you, although it all is based on the Bible that you are reading anyhow.  If you are not reading your Bible regularly, perhaps it will nudge you to do so.   And if you are feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood, alone, or disappointed, it will almost certainly encourage you by reminding you of biblical truths.

Although the book could be used in a group setting, it is also suitable for personal reading and contemplation.

May you be blessed by this review and, if you choose to read Help! I’m Drowning, may you be blessed by it as well.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Graf Martin and Bethany House and, as usual, am not compensated for this review.  I want to thank Graf Martin and Bethany House for graciously extending the deadline for this review.


  1. Sarah says:

    Annie Kate, I am glad that you have posted again although am sorry to hear about your father.
    Yes, it is easy either to hope/expect that difficult things won’t happen or when they do to constantly fear disaster rather than to trust the Lord. Thank you for the reminder that neither is right.

  2. Annie Kate says:

    Thank you, Sarah. I need the reminder myself as well. It’s something that is so easy to forget!

  3. I’m sorry for your loss, Annie Kate. May God comfort you and your family.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thank you, Nelleke.

  4. Carol Hudson says:

    So sorry to hear about your Dad, Annie Kate. Yes, everything else pales in comparison when you think of the finality of death in the here & now.
    Great to see you posting again!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      It’s so good to know it’s not eternally final!

  5. Sunshine says:

    Annie Kate, I was very excited to see your post – I’ve missed them. I’m so sorry about your Dad.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thank you, Sunshine. I’m hoping to start visiting people again, too. Life has just been too busy. Soon I hope to have time to write again. And review books. There are some good ones waiting.

  6. Jennifer H says:

    Hello old friend! I enjoyed reading this review. I, too, loved her and Clay’s Whole Hearted Child. In fact, I still own a copy despite being long past my homeschooling days, my baby is a JR in college!! I appreciate your insights. I am also sorry to hear of your loss. I pray that you are finding comfort and peace.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thank you, Jennifer. So funny that we both still have that book. It’s amazing how babies grow up.
      Yes, God gives comfort and peace, but it doesn’t come all at once. I don’t know how non-Christians survive.

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