Stumbling On Open Ground: Love, God, Cancer, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Ken Mansfield
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.]
Though I have never suffered through cancer myself, unlike Ken Mansfield, who has struggled against it twice, I found this book to be very humble and easy to relate to. The book, really a memoir of a couple’s struggle with cancer (as each chapter, virtually all of them very short, begins with a page or less from Connie Mansfield and then discusses some particular point from Ken). The book is largely chronological in its main storyline and is filled with all kinds of touching and humane reminisces that add a sense of humility to the work and remind us of the exciting but dangerous road that Ken Mansfield trod as a child of the 1960s. His pride in his accomplishments as a manager and label executive mix with a sense of mature understanding that he brought on a lot of his own misery himself, while having an honest wrestling match with God in the midst of massive and life-threatening trials.
This book is more of a memoir than an autobiography, and that is a decidedly good thing. An autobiography all too often is an attempt by someone to show that they are someone important or someone worth remembering, while a memoir can be a more humble self-placement of a person within their times and circumstances as an attempt to understand the interaction between someone and their world. This book is full of genuinely self-effacing humor (including the punny titles for its chapters) and sincere wrestling and questioning of the will of God in our lives. Anyone who has struggled with long and difficult trials as a Christian will appreciate this work’s warmth and honesty. I found, for myself, that he and I had many of the same favorite psalms, the same tendency to muse and reminisce about the course of our lives, and the same appreciation of the deeper spiritual importance of music as a whole. Mansfield is self-aware as an artistic and sensitive sort of person, and deeply appreciative of the help and support of his wife in giving him the strength to endure his bouts with cancer, one of which remains incurable.
As an honest and easily accessible memoir, this book deserves a wide and appreciative audience. This audience will include people of faith who will be encouraged by his sincerity and openness as an author, cancer survivors who will find encouragement from his own honest discussion of his treatment and the way he felt about it (included in the book are some rather pointed criticisms at the lack of bedside manner of many doctors in today’s world), as well as fans of music who will appreciate his comments about the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll music, including his work with the Beatles and Waylon Jennings. Others will simply enjoy the warmth and obvious affection between the author and his wife that shines through in this work, as the author is unstinting and generous in his praise of his wife for her hard work in the course of his diseases, not least in helping fight his natural feelings of despair amid the suffering. Whichever part of the audience the reader belongs to (or possibly more than one part), this is a richly rewarding and deeply sympathetic book that explores one man’s hesitant and sincere attempt to wrestle multiple times with mortality while tenaciously holding on to life and love.