"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.