All The Way Home, by Bruce Snavely
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Author’s Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
This book is a part of a genre I tend to read a fair amount of, the sort of memoir of a difficult childhood and family background  that involves such issues as finding the divinely inspired beauty of brokenness  that involves issues of forgiving and respecting parents . In one sense, this book is a model of the sort of approach that Frank McCourt spoke about at the beginning of Angela’s Ashes, “When I look back at my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.” Of course, the reason why so many of this type of book is written is the precise reason why I read so many of them–as someone who had a terrible childhood, I seek comfort in the analysis of other lives a bit distant from my own where lessons might be learned that can be applied to the far more delicate material of my own life, in how to appreciate the divine providence and the fruits of a difficult life and how to avoid the poison of resentment and bitterness. Therefore, even if this book is one member of a class of books, it is nonetheless of great worth in providing an example of God’s grace in a challenging life that can encourage others who can relate in at least some respect to the life story told in its pages.
This is a poignant story of the deep longing for home and family in the reality of a life that is deeply marred by loss. The author writes about a childhood with a father who was wealthy but lived poorly and was a terrible womanizer who drove the boy’s mother into insanity, and who then died, leaving his second family (without a great deal of cohesion) to fall apart in his absence in the face of the horrors of being a ward of the state in various foster homes and as a youth in a time period full of rebellion. The first part of the book, which takes up the first 130 pages of about 185 pages of written material, looks at the author in his path towards death or imprisonment or isolation (a path followed by his rather tragic close family) that was arrested through the powerful influence of a friend who points a directionless young man towards Christ and that leads to education, marriage, family, and professional success in an uneven but clear fashion requiring a great deal of reflection and effort.
This book is poignant in the understated way that the historical prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings) are so full of. The author discusses criminal mischief, losing the chance at a rock and roll career because his voice was shot and because he lost motivation after getting beaten to a pulp by a bouncer. Yet as the memoir reaches its conclusion, it is possible to see divine providence indirectly in the hand of the author’s life, such that it leads him to a faith in God and a realization that without the assistance of God there is no way to avoid an unpleasant life with an end in death. As a result of this reflection and this repentance, the author’s life becomes a blessing to those around him and greatly enriched. Especially key for the author is his marriage, a reflection on the fact that one’s ability to improve in life is greatly helped by gaining encouragement and insight from others who give us different ways to see the world than we can see based on our own experiences and perspective. The book even prompts its readers to examine what sort of factors led him to have slight doctrinal differences in his initial master’s degree studies that presented such problems, without getting into too much detail about such problems. This book ought to provide a great deal of encouragement to those who struggle with the same sort of alienation and loss of family, a reminder that we have a great potential family in God to learn from and to grow with. With the help of God, we all can reach home, even if the path there is far from straightforward.
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