Country music fans probably know a bit about Rory Feek, who, with his wife Joey Martin Feek, was half of the country singer-songwriter duo Joey + Rory. They released eight acclaimed albums between 2008 and 2016, and their last album, Hymns That Are Important to Us, just won a Grammy.
Fans might also know Rory from The Joey + Rory Show, the couple’s reality TV series that aired on RFD-TV between 2012 and 2014, in which Rory and Joey brought viewers into their Tennessee home as they prepared for the birth of their daughter, cooked in Joey’s family restaurant, held fan festivals at their farm, and more. Rory describes his marriage as “an incredible love story,” one that—for Rory—is an ongoing source of inspiration, even though, as some fans may know, Joey died of cancer midway through 2016.
Joey and Rory’s love story continues, in part, through the life of their two-year-old daughter, Indiana, who was born with Down syndrome; through Rory’s religious faith; and through his creative work. A little while before Joey’s death, Rory put down his guitar—“I’m a songwriter who isn’t writing songs right now,” he writes on his website, thislifeilive.com. The blog he started keeping there in 2014 ultimately led Rory to write his first book, This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever, just out from W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.
“Capturing the big and small moments in my life for the last few years has been so special for me,” Rory says. About his blogging, he notes, “It’s led to the opportunity to develop my writing voice and now even write a book.” But, as anyone who hears Rory’s music or reads his writing will realize instantly, the experiences he describes are not just creative fodder; they’re meaningful in their own right. He says he started his blog and wrote his book “mostly because those writings are important.” He adds: “They aren’t just memories. They are all I have of those moments with Joey now. I find myself going back and reading my blog posts a lot, and being so thankful for them.”
Rory’s a veteran songwriter, having written songs for others to sing for years before forming Joey + Rory. For him, songwriting was always about storytelling, a practice he’s found himself able to continue and extend as a prose writer. “Writing prose and songs are the same for me,” he muses. “But with prose I have more room and less structure. I try to just set the scene and let the characters tell me what the story is. That way, the process is more revelation than crafting. The characters tell me what they have to say, instead of the other way around. Even when I’m the main character.”
Rory’s got a warm, natural writerly voice—reading him feels like sitting across a kitchen table from a dear friend, someone humble and kind and eager to help. Though, Rory says: “Honestly, I don’t feel qualified to hand out advice to other people. I just try to share my story and my thoughts about what we’re going through, with the hope that others might see their situation in it, and it might be encouraging to them and their journey in some way.”
This Life I Live is a deeply generous book. It’s an episodic memoir, tracing the backstory of Rory’s music and film career, his love and life with Joey and their family, their shared faith, and how he has accepted Joey’s illness and death. And though Rory is wary of giving advice, readers may come to find his hopefulness and will to find the good in life contagious. Rory refuses to give in to anything like despair, though that doesn’t mean he shies away from his feelings, which are evident on every page of the book, which shows what can happen when we are fully open in life’s key moments.
What would Joey think of This Life I Live? Rory thinks she “would love this book.” He adds: “I know she would. Mostly, because I have tried to be honest about myself and my life, and about our life together, even when it hurts. She would want that. Joey saw the magic in our life together and wanted me to share that with others, whether through songs, or film, or the blog or books.” This is the story Joey said Rory was born to write.