Book Review: Forgiving Our Fathers And Mothers

Forgiving Our Fathers And Mothers, by Leslie Leyland Fields & Dr. Jill Hubbard

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

It is ironic, but at the same time entirely appropriate, that the principal author of this book teaches classes on how to write memoirs, a difficult task that I have considered off and on since childhood but not decided to tackle because I’d want to make sure there is a happy ending of sorts before I commit myself to that unpleasant task [1]. This book is a very well-written and very emotionally charged volume about a subject of great importance and difficulty, and that is coming to terms with the often painful legacy that we have from our parents. The book itself is divided between a series of chapters that are designed to move in a particular order from suffering and pain to forgiveness, and each chapter is divided between a section by the main author who blends her own story (and that of others) with biblical stories told in a conversational manner and another section written by a Christian counselor with a more professional approach that provides a reflection on the primary author, along with some very pointed and serious study questions.

The book as a whole is structured around a combination of personal stories and biblical ones. By and large, the biblical references are substantial and analyzed well, even if the stories themselves (like Jonah, Joseph, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan, along with quite a few psalms) are generally well-known material. The personal stories are what drive this book forward, as well as the thoughtful and honest analysis of scriptures applied to our own personal situations, especially involving family (and within that, especially parents). Some of the stories of searing, dealing with sexual abuse (one particularly harrowing story involves the sister of one of the authors who would run away from home frequently by running a few miles at night to escape from her father’s sexual abuse, until one day she ran away for good), substance abuse, violence, mental illness, and general shabby treatment that some of us have to deal with in our own family backgrounds.

Although this book is certainly not alone in its examination of family patterns of abuse and brokenness [2], it does get to its point very elegantly, especially in discussing why we are to honor our parents [3] as well as the benefits of choosing openness and forgiveness rather than anger and bitterness and secrecy. This is not to say that virtue is an easy road, but this book is written very gently and very sympathetically, and the warmth and candor of the authors allow readers to find encouragement in their own road to forgiving parents for their often serious sins, both in the knowledge that we need to be forgiven for our own sins and the knowledge that our parents too were children once, and often had the same kind of difficulties in their own lives that they passed on to their own offspring because of the fact that hurt people tend to hurt other people and that patterns of dysfunction and brokenness tend to endure from generation to generation. Breaking the cycle, something we fervently hope for, is not something that comes easily, nor can it come without a great deal of help and encouragement. To the extent that we desire to break such cycles in our own lives, this book is certainly a worthwhile one that should find an appreciative audience. The one complaint I would make of this book is that like a wide variety of books in my library, it is written by women and primarily about women (although most of the biblical stories deal with men). Having stories about sons and not only daughters dealing with the sins of their parents would have added some helpful balance. This is, of course, a problem that can be rectified in future editions.

[1] A selection of books that are not too different from what my memoir would be like includes:

[2] See, for example:

[3] This is, not surprisingly, an issue I have written about myself:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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