Book Review August 2022

Where the Light Fell” is a memoir from one of the greatest living Christian authors, Philip Yancey. I have many of his books on my shelves and they have all been a delight to read. If I were to sum up Yancey in one word, it would be GRACE. Perhaps the take home message from his life would be grace, something received from God and something to be shown and given by everyone else.

This book is a spiritual autobiography and I guess it was written to allow himself to process the story of his life given a revelation to him late in life. That revelation was learning that his father had not died in the way that he was led to believe.

Given the story that unfolds around the triangular relationship between his brother, Marshall and their mother, it is astonishing that this man went on to be the great Christian author that he did because everything in his life would normally turn a person off religion but as the title suggests there is a moment in his life when the light fell and took him down the road of Christian service, a road not travelled by his brother.

He charts his upbringing in a very hard line fundamentalist home and church, no TV, no movies, no girls, nothing pleasurable of any kind. It is a life of poverty for a single mother in Atlanta in the fifties and racial segregation that is still rife and supported by the church. Even though he does all the right things that most parents would be proud of, the mother lacks grace, even wishing death on one son and wishing that the other had never been born. The eldest son becomes estranged from his mother and Philip just about hangs on in there.

This was a harrowing story to read, after having already read so many uplifting books by Philip Yancey. It is heart breaking, in that the mother doesn’t mellow even in her mid-nineties, and can’t see the hypocrisy in her words and actions which are so against God.

It is a hard read but so worth it.

Church of Ireland parishes in Collooney, Ballymote and Ballisodare