Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
“Relentless” by Natasha Miller is some of the most beautiful and inspirational autobiographical content ever packed into 200 pages! The book follows Miller as she overcomes an extremely traumatic upbringing to eventually become a successful musician (even asked to perform the National Anthem before pro sporting events) and the owner of a multi-million dollar events business! Miller's story is a reminder that no matter where you start in life (or end up), there is almost always a light at the end of the tunnel or a bright side to things.
The author tells us to be willing to start ugly when first trying to pursue something or better our lives. It's not always going to be pretty, in fact it's likely not going to be.
We begin this story straight in the fire, in the midst of one of the biggest conflicts of the book: the conflict between Natasha and her hateful, abusive mother. This relationship shaped the way that Natasha saw herself and the world. Natasha lived in paralyzing fear of her mother who often threatened to kill her, even brandishing weapons like a knife and a deer hunting rifle. Her mother frequently told Natasha how much she irrationally hated her for unspecified reasons and that killing her would be worth getting arrested over. She told her that she was ugly and worthless.
When we first meet Natasha in the tale, she is near the peak of this crisis-filled relationship with her mother, finally calling 9-1-1 and hoping that help with finally arrive. Her father, though loving and supportive, was an alcoholic who lacked the courage to stand up to his wife's abuse. On that night, however, he at least had the guts to ask the police if there were any other options to protect his daughter. So, on that cold, tragic Christmas, Natasha spent the night at a shelter for endangered youth with other children who were estranged from their parents for the holidays (or longer). How is that for a sad story?
And something the author truly captures is the feeling of being so small and powerless when you are young and in a situation like this.
“I was tiny,” she says regarding her nightmares, “the world was huge and looming, giant people, giant tables and chairs, all waiting to crush me.”
Beautiful, vivid passages like this are scattered throughout this phenomenal book.
Natasha spent much of her life wondering who could love her if her own mother couldn't. She wondered why no one would come to help or save her from her miserable home life. Can you imagine this poor little soul feeling like this? And can you imagine that there are children out there in the world right now who are abused, neglected, and abandoned by their parents? It just hits you in the heart. It's so heartbreaking. And at the same time, this narrative is not presented in a “woe is me” fashion as some similar books are. There have been books we've read in previous years in which all the author did was complain about what happened to them from one year to another. That style gets grating after a while, and thankfully this author avoids it.
There's actually a profound spirit of hope in all this hopelessness. There's always a silver lining.
If there was one place where Natasha felt safe, it was in the music room playing the piano with her dad. It was the one activity that her mother never interrupted, performed in the one place her mother never seemed to go. It was during those brief moments of escape when Natasha could just be herself and do something she loved to do. And that's perhaps the best thing that came out of all this trauma: it pushed Natasha into the loving arms of music. She fell in love with it, and it became the thing in which she excelled at the most.
Natasha progressed in her music career from playing along with high schoolers while in elementary school to being invited to sing the National Anthem in stadiums and arenas full of 40,000+ people!
But that isn't the climax of her story. Natasha also goes on to get married, become a mother, and then to use her ingenuity, skill set, and force of will to found her own events business that becomes a multi-million dollar business.
She does undergo several low points including the stillborn birth of her son, Aidan. Not only the feeling of loss but the profound love they have for their son, whom they never got to spend time with, is beautiful. It reflects that Natasha became a more loving, caring person (and mother) than her mother was. That is made even more clear when her surviving daughter, Bennett, thanks her in a letter for loving and supporting rather than suffocating or trying to control her. Indeed, Natasha serves as a pretty interesting example of parenting as she goes out of her way to allow her daughter to make her own decisions, even offering to get her contraceptives if she decides that she's interested in sex. What a cool parent.
And speaking of parenting, Natasha is eventually drawn back to face her demons, or the she-demon who is her mother. Only, her mother in her older state is frailer and even shows unsettling signs of light. Confronting her mother again and even learning of her mother's deepest secret, Natasha seems to come full-circle.
Another very relatable struggle in this book is Natasha struggling to keep her business open during the pandemic. Her multi-million dollar business began to make zero revenue and was forced to lay people off. It is tragic in a way since we read about her building this business from the ground up. But she uses the resilience, toughness, and intelligence that her life armed her with to save her business.
Oh, yeah, she also gets to work with music legend Bobby Sharp!
There are some absolutely beautiful lines in this book like the ones below:
“Victory is not the most important thing. It's the struggle and fight. The lessons we take from our scars.”
“Your struggles may be far more or far less. That's not what's important. It's what you do today and tomorrow that counts.”
“We don't have to be defined by our struggles. Struggle is what gives us the strength to rise above, and the humility to remain grounded.”
Check out this amazing memoir on Amazon!