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Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me (a book review, of sorts)

June 18, 2011
by

Kids from alcoholic homes are lousy accountants. They lose track of the number of times they get let down, embarrassed, or left to make sense of life on their own. But every so often a minor injury comes along – like a missed concert – and it tips over the box in which the disproportionate number of disappointments those kids have yet to acknowledge or grieve are found.

And so I cried.

I cried for every concert and play my parents, especially my father, hadn’t seen. I cried for every pounding I’d taken from kids at school that I hadn’t even bothered to report to anyone. I cried for the father who barely knew I played an instrument and certainly had no idea I was first chair in the school band. I cried so hard I thought my throat was wringing itself out like a dish towel. (92-93)

Ian Cron‘s second book, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me is, as he calls it in the subtitle, “a memoir… of sorts.” Early in the book, he explains the “of sorts,” acknowledging the uncertain line that divides fiction, feeling, and reality, particularly for kids who grow up in difficult and broken environments. The book centers on Cron’s childhood, with his largely absent and alcoholic father providing the conflict, internal and external, that carries the story forward.

Tying the book together is Cron’s connection to the divine, manifested in various ways throughout his life (from emotional responses to the Eucharist, audible senses of Christ’s voice, and the fervor of evangelistic friends). Also woven into the memoir are stories from adulthood and fatherhood, illustrating the difficult process of finding redemption from the broken shards of childhood. These experiences – the working out of the “unfinished business of grace” (to steal Rowan Williams’ phrase) – make up the thread that drives Cron’s writing, with the stories of his life providing the context in which this grace plays out.

From “fugitive graces,” saints and staircases, to the mystery of the eucharist, Cron writes with a sense of embodied spirituality and incarnated grace – undeniably Trinitarian and humbly faithful to the Christian story. Yet Cron is also true to the human story, allowing his experiences of woundedness, grace, and redemption to lead the reader to an intimate place of reflection. We would do well to see such a saturation and layering of grace in our own story.

Disclosure of material connection in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I received a copy of this book for review, though the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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