“I was born with a God-given gift for music,” writes country music superstar Sara Evans in Born to Fly. This memoir describes her childhood on a 400-acre farm in Missouri, as well as her rise in the music industry, and includes a dose of life advice.
Born in 1971, Evans displayed singing talent by the time she was 4 years old, inspiring her mother to form a family band that traveled throughout the state, playing venues from county fairs to honky-tonk bars, with Evans’ two older brothers on guitar and bass. A few years later, Evans was almost killed when she was hit by a car as she crossed a highway to reach the family’s mailbox. With two badly broken legs, as well as other injuries, she spent six weeks in traction and a year with two full leg casts. It’s a tragedy she credits as life changing. “At the age of eight years old, I knew that music was my calling,” she writes. “The accident taught me so much about patience and perseverance. When you endure hard things, you get stronger. There were many more challenges ahead, but my purpose on this earth has been clear ever since.”
Evans weathered her parents’ divorce and remarriages, dropped out of college almost as soon as she started, suffered from mental health issues, and pursued romantic relationships that took her farther away from her musical dreams, including one that resulted in marriage in 1993. Finally, she learned the hard way the answer to the question she now asks aspiring performers who seek her guidance: “Are you willing to sacrifice what others aren’t?”
Evans was willing and finally made it to Nashville, where she got a job as a demo singer and saw doors begin to open in the music industry, culminating in an almost unprecedented seven-album recording contract in 1997. After struggling with radio stations that refused to play her singles, Evans struck gold (actually more like platinum) in 2000 with her third album, Born to Fly, which sold 5 million copies and produced four hit singles. Of that time, she writes, “I had reached stardom. But one thing about stardom is that once you’ve reached it, you have to keep it going or it disappears fast.”
By 2006, Evans was a busy mother of three enjoying her participation in the TV competition Dancing with the Stars when a family crisis moved her to resign from the show and file for divorce. She was subjected to intense public scrutiny over the contentious end of her troubled marriage, but readers will find no scandalous details here. “Divorce is one of the hardest things a person can go through,” she writes. “I had no idea how hard it was actually going to be, and being famous while going through it was excruciating.” Instead, Evans describes her happy second marriage and her relocation to Birmingham, Alabama, to oversee a blended family of seven children, while continuing her demanding touring and recording schedules.
In the second half of the book, Evans opens her heart to dispense some hard-earned wisdom about qualities to look for (and avoid) in a mate, her parenting style, and the comfort of her Christian faith. In direct, plainspoken language, she celebrates the importance of family, discipline, prayer, forgiveness, a sense of humor, and a strong work ethic. She even lists her pet peeves — laziness, paper plates, and obsessive cell phone usage, to name a few — and offers self-care pointers: “White teeth, great eyebrows, great skin, and a spray tan. These things all add to my overall style. Cute toes and fingernails. Details matter.”
But above all, Evans recommends clarity of purpose, hard work, and determination in life, no matter the obstacles: “I’m not a quitter. I never have been. … I like to see how much I can push myself to try to be the best me every single day.”
Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.
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