Tuesday, July 05, 2011

One of the Most Powerful Books You'll Ever Read

The Booksneeze program allows bloggers to receive free copies of books for review purposes. That's how I got to read "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me" by Ian Morgan Cron. I say that for two reasons: (1) I'm required by law to disclose that my copy of the book was free; and (2) I am pretty sure I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for Booksneeze. And I would have missed out on reading one of the best books I have ever laid eyes on.

If I were to tell you what this book is about--a middle-aged Episcopal priest recounts his growing up with a dad who was an alcoholic CIA spy, I daresay your interest would fail to rise to a level adequate to convince you to crack this book open. And it doesn't even have a catchy title. Any hope for the success of "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me" (success being defined as this book getting the audience it deserves) hinges on one thing: word of mouth. And that's where I come in.

Cron's story is one which, CIA stuff aside, is all too common. But his writing is uncommonly good. Great, even. This book is a clinic on how to use the best possible words to convey exactly what you want to. If writing were acting, then Cron's performance throughout this book rivals anything that Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Geoffrey Rush, or Marlon Brando have ever given us. It would be a shoo-in for an Oscar.

As hard as it is to put aside the writing, I have to point out the story itself. As the reader encounters the various episodes of Cron's life, there are two parallel threads: the impact of Cron's earthly father, and the hand of his heavenly Father, throughout his journey. From one end to the other, we see example after example of both of these. God's hand is present throughout, guiding and rescuing the young man as the actions of his dad do their damage and leave their mark.

The 2nd to last chapter, essentially the climactic one, uses a family outing at a swimming hole to deal with Cron's doubts about his own ability to father. It's classic. You've heard critics say "You'll laugh; you'll cry"? Well, in this chapter, I did both, often at the same time. Seeing this man learn to father (even as he wasn't fathered well, but he was Fathered well) is as uplifting and freeing as anything I have seen written in years. It's a powerful way to end a powerful story.

7 comments:

Ian said...

Hi James,

Well, you made my morning.

I am so glad you liked the book and took the time to write about it. It was a labor of love and the Quarry chapter you mentioned enjoying is my favorite as well. Its hard for me to get through it without crying when I do public readings. Would you consider posting your review on Amazon as well? Believe it or not, it makes a huge difference to getting the word out and as you said this one is a "word of mouth" book. If that's a bother don't sweat it. I honestly wrote first and foremost to say thanks for your encouraging words,not to get you to advertise my book elsewhere.

Cheers,

Ian Morgan Cron+

James said...

Ian, it's an honor to know you read my review. But I feel bad I said that the title isn't catchy. Hopefully, you're a forgiving man ;)
I'll gladly post a review to Amazon. I typically do for Booksneeze anyway, although this time I happened to do it at Barnes and Nobles' site.

Ian said...

No problem about the catchy title critique.

But did you have to say "middle-aged" Episcopal priest? :)

James said...

(James says nothing. Hangs his head in shame as he walks away)

James said...

Regarding the title, though: I have noticed some books do not as well as they should because of the title. Two which come to mind are "The Way of the Wild Heart" by John Eldredge and "To Own a Dragon" by Donald Miller. Both have since been renamed. Not sure if it helped.

James said...

Ian, not sure if you are coming back to read this, but if you do, please read this: http://burnsidewriters.com/2011/06/17/you-dont-know-my-love/ It's something I put up for Father's Day. I also had an alcoholic father, although my experience was different than yours because he left early on and I barely knew him. But God did some good stuff in response.

Ian said...

Thanks, James. I will check it out.