My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book came strongly recommended to me by my fiance and after finishing it last night, we briefly discussed it. It’s not a bad book, but I also can’t say I was too impressed. The book centers around a crisis in the author’s life — he tried to commit suicide five years prior to writing this book. He focuses a lot on that and everything that comes out of it. My problem is simple. His suicide “attempt” wasn’t really an attempt. He stood in a traffic median in the middle of the night and contemplated stepping in front of an imagined oncoming truck for some two to 10 minutes before walking away. That, to me, is not a suicide “attempt.” It’s merely a thought and it doesn’t merit a book. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I’ve had my own demons to wrestle with and I know people who have actually gone through with suicide attempts and I’ve had people in my life who succeeded in their suicide attempts. THEIR stories need to be told, not some wannabe suicider who doesn’t even try.
I also found the author, Greg Garrett, to be fairly unlikeable as a person. At least he’s honest about himself though. He went through several failed marriages, drank, had a vicious temper, was allegedly battling depression, yet was somehow holding down a tenured teaching gig at Baylor University. I never figured out how he landed that job. He had kids, but I don’t think he was a great father, and he essentially admits to traumatizing his youngest by his nasty fights with an ex.
The kicker is, this guy is in seminary (although since this book was written a few years ago, I assume he’s out by now). He is in training to become an Episcopalian priest. While working at a Baptist school.
Here’s where I did identify with the author and why I’m raising my rating to three stars instead of two — he grew up a fundie with the fear of hell drilled into him on a near-daily basis, with regular alter calls, revivals, and the like. Huh, sounds like my childhood. And like me, he left the church and gave it up. I can identify a lot. What frustrated me a great deal about this book, though, was he never explains how he came to go to an Episcopalian church and how it “saved” him and turned his life around. Nowhere is that found. I, too, have had a bit of a spiritual rebirth and am active in an Episcopalian church of my own, something that would have been unthinkable in my upbringing. After all, those people weren’t “real” Christians and were going to hell. How did Garrett come to this point in his life?
Another problem I had with this book was that he comes across as somewhat of a spiritual advisor — or so it seems to me — but his life is royally messed up, even after he is re-“saved.” He’s forever calling his minister telling him he thinks he’s going to do something bad to himself to hurt himself. What a pansy! Geez, just swallow those pills and be done with it. OK, I say that somewhat frivolously, or I mean to at least, but it’s hard for me to take Garrett and this book too seriously when at his worst, he’s not that bad, and at his best, he’s not that great. He’s rather mediocre; why does he merit a book? My fiance will probably be disappointed with this review, because his alternative ways of viewing Christianity jive with hers (and with me too, to a degree), but I just can’t help feeling like this book ultimately fails in its mission, and that’s an unfortunate thing indeed.