Book Review: Dangerous Love

Dangerous Love: A True Story Of Tragedy, Faith, And Forgiveness In The Muslim World, by Ray Norman

[Note: This book was provided by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

As a water engineer by education and the former head of World Vision’s efforts in the remote and obscure West African nature of Mauritania [1], Ray Norman and his family, including an Anglo-French wife and two children, whose son was in high school in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, was not expected to be caught up in violence, yet that is precisely what happened to him in the fall of 2001 when he and his daughter Hannah were shot in cold blood as they enjoyed a day at the beach. From that shocking moment, with which the book begins in media res, Norman discusses the crisis of faith for him and his wife, his own background as the children of medical missionaries in West Africa, and the lengthy and painful aftermath that led to great spiritual insight, some lasting damages, especially for Hannah, whose PTSD appears to affect her long afterwards, as happens to some of us who survive childhood trauma, and also an outpouring of love and respect between the author’s family and a surprising group of people, including Mauritania’s chief imam and the tortured soul who shot Ray and Hannah, who later died in 2012.

In terms of its contents, this book is a gripping real-life drama that ranks as a story of missionary faith of the sort of dramatic and documentary-worthy quality as Through Gates Of Splendor [2]. The book manages to demonstrate the sort of danger that missionaries go through in seeking to serve God and share the outgoing love and concern of Jesus Christ in foreign countries while also demonstrating the complicated and nuanced workings of God’s Holy Spirit and of the behavior of the civil and religious leaders of a poor country like Mauritania. While there appears to be a small and violent minority implacably opposed to open Christian presence, and despite laws that are very strict against open Christian missionary efforts to convert citizens to the Christian faith, the open desire of Westerners to teach and help poverty-striken people and help them to live better lives, while showing themselves to be people of the utmost propriety and honor in their own personal conduct clearly has won people like Norman a great deal of favor in unexpected places, as both a prominent cleric later chosen to be the head of Mauritania’s ulama were moved by the compassion of Norman and especially his brave and spirited daughter in forgiving the man who shot him and seek his release from barbaric prison conditions and as much rehabilitation as was possible, which won them a great deal of goodwill and provided a stark example of forgiveness and reconciliation in a part of the world where that is particularly scarce.

In reading this book, which is written in an honest fashion, including a great deal of detail and candid admission of struggles and wounds and doubts and concerns and uncertainty, it is clear that both the author and the reader are meant to come to the conclusion that the tragic shooting of Norman and his daughter were an act of surprising divine providence that is worthy of reflection for those of us who wonder why bad things happen to good people. It is clear, for one, that the author is well-read when it comes to matter concerning trials and blessings, quoting frequently from scripture as well as such authors as C.S. Lewis, among others. The tragedy allowed Norman and his family to build faith and courage through overcoming their suffering, allowed them to see the humanity and decency of their neighbors in West Africa, and allowed them to demonstrate immense grace and forgiveness and mercy in their own dealings with their shooter, providing a fascinating if sometimes unpleasant case study in how God uses difficulty and disaster to shape people into the proper vessels of modeling His ways and His own behavior for others [3]. The author also manages to make a lot of pointed criticism of the materialism and shallowness of much contemporary American spirituality, and the fact that those who live lives of comparatively great privilege often show little appreciation to God for the gifts they have been given or a recognition that those who have been given much by God are expected to use what they have been given in service and outgoing love for others. As was said by the lapsed Christian Thomas Carlyle, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.” This book is a spur to the reader to convert a conviction of God’s love for humanity into conduct, even in the worst of times and the worst of conditions, providing an example of what it means to love our enemies and to be a blessing to those who seek to do us harm.

[1] The country, if it is known at all, is mostly known for its grinding poverty and its lengthy tradition of slavery even into modern times. See, for example:


[3] See, for example:

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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9 Responses to Book Review: Dangerous Love

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