Thinking Out Loud is available on Amazon on Kindle, Paperback, Hardback and Audio Book (through Audible). I received a press copy through NetGalley to provide this review.
Thinking Out Loud (Love, Grief and Being Mum and Dad) is a biography by Rio Ferdinand. Although he is obviously a very famous football star, with Rio playing 81 times for the England team during his career, football plays a secondary role in this story. The focus of the story is Rio’s family life and his wife Rebecca. Starting off positively, we learn how Rio and Rebecca meet and come to be a loving husband and wife, with three wonderful children. Unfortunately, a long life was not to be for Rebecca and it’s a hard read to discover that she has cancer. Rio has to look after the children whilst she struggles with treatment, fighting for life. It’s a fight she loses – and I’m not ashamed to confess it brought me to tears. Rio was left as a single father to Lorenz, Tate, and Tia who had just turned 4, and this is primarily a journey of how a family is torn apart and put back together and the emotional destruction that losing a loved one wreaks, for everyone in so many different ways.
Rare is the celebrity biography on my bookshelf, but this one drew me in with a story of grief – but also of love. The love that he feels for Rebecca shines through, but above all else, you see a man who has to change and grow and step up to the plate when his number is called. He may start with some shortcomings (which he is very honest about), but he is a fantastic father and the love that he holds for his children is evident. This is a book that should appeal to anyone, regardless of your interest in football and even regardless of whether you have children. We all have someone close to us that we can lose and we can all experience great tragedy that tears life as we knew it apart. This book is a haunting reminder to cherish your loved ones and hold them close. The rich and the famous are not immune to death and despair and the end could come for any one of us at a moment’s notice. Being reminded of one’s mortality is not a pleasant thing – I’m one year older than Rebecca was when she died – but it can be something that gives us strength and motivation to make the most out of the days we have.
This personal tragedy must have been incredibly hard to talk and write about, and in the BBC1 Documentary “Being Mum and Dad” that accompanies it, you can hear and see the pain and emotional turmoil that Rio has gone through. This is very evident in the book as well, which is ghostwritten beautifully by Decca Aitkenhead. Decca spent a month with Rio writing his story and he couldn’t have picked a better ghostwriter, as she herself has experienced both the loss of a mother to breast cancer and the loss of a spouse. Rio is brutally honest about everything – about how football had come first before family in the past, how he barely knew how to do any domestic tasks, and about how he had been in complete denial about the possibility of losing his wife and being left to fend alone. Of course, in the back of my mind, I’m reminded that he’s not really alone because when you’re a millionaire you can take quite a few shortcuts!
Ultimately, Thinking Out Loud is a raw, honest and heartbreaking story that his children will one day read and look back on. I hope I’m never in a position to experience this level of personal loss, but if I am, I think remembering back to this book will be helpful.