The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

I enjoyed this book so much I read most of it in one day! It’s the story of how Andrew Klavan, author and secular Jew, converted to Christianity. It was a long time coming.

As a child, Andrew’s family recognizes the important rites of Judaism (Passover, the Day of Atonement, and so on) but they do this as a way to preserve their culture heritage, not as true believers. When he grows older, he considers himself an intellectual and an agnostic. He is first attracted to the Bible as literature and reads it because he wants to become a writer. Since Christian symbolism is everywhere he thought he should learn where the symbols came from.

As his life progresses, he becomes more and more depressed. He goes into therapy, and over the course of years experiences what he calls “epiphanies.” Later he realizes that each one represented a tenet of Christianity. He explains them this way:

  1. The truth of suffering was the knowledge of the cross
  2. The wisdom of joy was the realization of the soul’s relationship with God
  3. The reality of love was the revelation of God’s personality as seen in Jesus
  4. The possibility of clear perception was a sign that we are made in God’s image, having the ability to understand that His good is our good
  5. Laughter at the heart of mourning shows that we know this life is not what we are meant for

Somewhere along the line, he begins to pray. At first, just a simple prayer of gratitude (Thank You, God) but then more and more. Prayer changes him. He decides to be baptized.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. This book will make you laugh and make you sad, and in the end very grateful that you also have experience the great, good thing.

For more spiritual autobiographies see these posts:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

In My Grandmother’s House by Yolanda Pierce–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

The Redemption of Bobby Love by Bobby and Cheryl Love–Book Review

This memoir is a story of sin and grace.

The Redemption of Bobby Love: A Story of Faith, Family, and Justice

The sin — Bobby Love’s true name is Walter Miller. As a young man Bobby became a thief. He graduates from small time theft to robbing banks, and is eventually arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for armed robbery. When his first request for parole is denied, he escapes, and spends 40 years hiding his true identity.

The grace–Bobby, through hard work and a changed attitude, marries, has children, coaches Little League and teaches Sunday School. He hopes his past is behind him, but the toll of living a lie is high, and eventually the law catches up with him. To avoid revealing the end of Bobby’s story, I won’t say more. However, I will say that Bobby’s life is changed through his faith in God, which reminds me of something William Barclay once said, “no one can make a bad man good except Christ.” That’s true of all of us because we are all sinners, and anything good we are able to accomplish comes about through the action of the Holy Spirit within us.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. This was an easy read, but not very deep.

For more spiritual memoirs see:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

In My Grandmother’s House by Yolanda Pierce–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

Where Goodness Still Grows by Amy Peterson–Book Review

I have a sign above my desk.  It says:

  • Read Broadly
  • Think Critically
  • Express Creatively

This book by Amy Peterson encouraged me to do all these things.  As Amy examines a number of traditional Christian virtues, such as kindness, hospitality, modesty and purity,  she weaves in the story of her evangelical background and the ways in which her understanding of their meaning has changed over the years.  I love to hear the faith stories of others, so I was immediately drawn into the narrative.  Her honesty and authenticity shine through as she describes personal experiences.

I did not agree with many of Amy’s theological and political opinions. In some cases, I think she oversimplifies issues (immigration) and in others manipulates reality to fit her agenda (seeing many things from a feminist viewpoint).  On the other hand she raises hard questions such as:

  • How do we, as a nation, welcome the stranger?
  •  How do we properly steward God’s creation?
  •  How do we practice kindness in a way that recognizes the image of God in every person, even those with whom we disagree?
  •  How do we evangelize people who are unwilling to accept the logic of our belief system?

She questions some cultural assumptions about what particular virtues mean, and makes many valid points.  I admired her willingness to wrestle with God’s Word and allow it to change her.  She is also fairly respectful of those with whom she disagrees and seems to truly desire and encourage dialogue about difficult topics.

This book is well written, and if you are open to listening to differing ideas (as I am), you will probably enjoy it.  That comes under the heading of “read broadly.”  We need to accept and understand that we’re not all alike.  We’ve each had different experiences and are at different places in our pilgrim journey.  It’s okay to be a Christian without agreeing about everything or supporting the same political candidates.  Some things made me dig deeper into my beliefs, ask others what they know about issues and do some research (think critically) and that’s a good thing.

Now I hope this review has been a way to “express creatively” a little of what I learned!

VERDICT:  5 STARS for writing, 3 STARS for accuracy

For more posts about Christian virtues see:

The Habit of Honesty

In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity In A Fractured World by Jake Meador–Book Review

A Quote About Love