Book Review: "Full Of Heart"
"Full of Heart" opens as an invitation—an invitation for readers to peek into the life of J.R. Martinez, who, in turn, takes his first glance at a new face and body, after weeks of recovery from severe injuries and burns suffered during the Iraq War. It is a raw opening, but it is real. Martinez’s gritty tone throughout his autobiography and debut novel allows the readers to experience firsthand the most adverse period of his life.
His account of September 11th, as a senior in high school states: “I saw airplanes hitting tall buildings in New York City, flames erupting, firefighters lumbering in, and people running out. At that moment I had no clue how profoundly that event would change my life.”
Straight out of high school and his future uncertain, Martinez—a young, 18-year-old on the cusp of manhood—joins the U.S. Army, with hopes to become a proud soldier defending his country. However, his dreams are shattered shortly after arriving in Iraq when his Humvee hits a mine, and he is faced with the question many of us fear: “What are you going to do with your life?”
Albeit devastating, this book is not just a story of tragedy—it is a 233-page paperback full of heart and full of hope. It is a story of a mother’s unconditional love for her child and the inspiring and difficult journey she takes to secure her son’s future; it is a childhood full of dreams to become somebody; it is the tale of a soldier and his battles; and it is a man’s deepest valley and his journey to the top of the mountain. Martinez takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions, not leaving a single detail out, from memories of his high school girlfriends to his enrollment in the army to the debut of his acting career. Just as his heroine of a mother stands by Martinez through thick and thin, the readers trace the steps of a man who leads an incredible and inspirational life.
And so, after overcoming troughs of depression, confusion, and anger, Martinez answers the aforementioned question with an unbelievable amount of strength and spirit. Coming to terms with the burns on his face and body, he channels his inner beauty—a beauty that is inexpressible and more beautiful than mere good looks alone—through his works as a motivational speaker to encourage fellow burn patients and as a spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.
In 2008, Martinez steps into the limelight in his debut acting performance on the ABC show, "All My Children", as a U.S. Army soldier injured in combat. He continues to shine bright under the spotlight on "Dancing with the Stars," as season thirteen’s champion with Karina Smirnoff.
Besides all of these great accomplishments, what resounds most with Martinez is his optimistic attitude and his wide, bright smile that accompanies it. His story indeed has its tragic fall, but it did not end there. Martinez is a shining embodiment of hope, strength, resilience, and spirit—he is full of heart.
Reach Staff Reporter Ruth Kim here.