OCEAN STAR: The True Story of a Heart Lost and Found
Christina DiMari’s OCEAN STAR, a memoir of overcoming a dark childhood of violence, abuse and substance addictions to find faith, love and the creative life, offers hope and encouragement to anyone who has faced seemingly insurmountable challenges.
DiMari was raised in an Italian family in California that loosely belonged to the Catholic church, but didn’t practice faith at home. “I had always believed in God, but I really didn’t understand how believing in him made all that much difference to us while we lived on earth,” she writes. “…We simply didn’t really know how believing in him could make our life any different in the day-to-day stuff.”
Regularly beaten by her mother, who was otherwise mostly absent, DiMari grew up feeling she was her father’s favorite. Yet, as the violence between mom and dad escalated, her parents separated and she lost touch with her father. Life at home was unbearable. Over the years, DiMari estimates she ran away more than 100 times.
“Was I fooling myself?” she writes. “Was I really bad and not worth anything? Would it have been better if I’d never been born? Did my life matter to anyone?”
She regularly smoked pot, dabbling in LSD and other drugs, shoplifted clothes, hung out with the hippies in Haight Asbury, and listened to The Grateful Dead. Pods of dolphins appear in various places throughout the memoir, symbolizing DiMari’s strong friendships with others and as a symbol of hope. Her friends became her dolphin pod, with a trademark saying, “Life’s a trip! Enjoy the ride.”
Despite DiMari’s poor performance in school, one determined high school counselor helped her get her high school diploma and pointed her toward college. It was there that she grew weary of her choices and began looking for deeper meaning. “I was tired of living my life with no direction or purpose. There had to be more.” Through a loving pastor and a fellow student at the college, she decided to make Christ the center of her life.
Changes followed. DiMari found herself drawn to young children in the Philippines and got involved in mission work. Eventually, she met and married Michael, a concert violinist, and had two sons. As her faith grew stronger, however, she realized she had to revisit the dark places in her childhood. She also realized she had to come to grips with her relationship with her father and mother. As DiMari forced herself to explore the past, she uncovered some terrible secrets that shed light on her dysfunctional family.
The starfish on the cover is appropriate; it’s a symbol woven throughout, which DiMari uses as an example of how broken things (such as a starfish losing an arm) can heal and become whole. They are saved, she says, when they cling to the “rock.” This is not literal nonfiction for sticklers about the genre; rather, it’s a creative retelling of one woman’s story. Some liberties have been taken, such as using recreated dialogue extensively throughout; these are acknowledged at the beginning of the book.
DiMari crafts a motivational card and gift line, and hosts “Designed to Shine” workshops on the beaches of California where young girls are encouraged to dream big and become the women God designed them to be. “If I have learned anything at all, it’s this: The journey is not always easy, but if you are willing to surrender the dreams that you hold in your heart and let God replace them with the dreams he has for you in his…and never, ever, ever give up, your star will eventually SHINE the way it was designed to.” This is an inspiring book for older teens and adults who have overcome difficult experiences and are looking for hope.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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