Shifting Shadows: How A New York Drug Lord Found Freedom In The Last Place he Expected, by Herman Mendoza
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I found this book to be immensely compelling and pretty unsparing in its honesty. It is perhaps to be regretted that the author assumes that readers of this book will be able to relate to the criminal underground that the book discusses in considerable detail, or that they will be somehow at the end of their rope. Despite being relatively on the straight and narrow as far as my life is concerned, this book was certainly relatable to me in that it expressed a picture of a world that I have at least been witness to if not a part of. And the author’s tale of how he was able to find freedom in large part because of the evidence of his changed life when he and his brother became Christian leaders in prison and then turn that into service to others around the world and in his local communities is compelling to anyone who likes a tale of godly faith growing in unlikely ground, and that is a wide audience.
This book is about 250 pages long and it tells a straightforward memoir about a young man who grew up as a troublemaker and quickly found a place in gangs and in drug dealing and using, who managed to find a girl good enough to date him and marry him despite knowing that he was a bad person and having that impression frequently hammered home through seeing him drive drunk and hearing about his other girls, one of whom he got pregnant at the same time his wife was pregnant. The author mentions these aspects of his life, including the way that they tried to deal with scores and operated and found themselves vulnerable to snitches and less than honorable behavior from associates, in a rather blunt fashion. The author discusses how he sought to survive in jail and the way that he felt it necessary to keep family solidarity as well as avoid the violence that was all around, expressing increasing sensitivity to spiritual matters during his second imprisonment, which culminated in his repentance and the start of a flourishing prison ministry. And best of all, this book does not sugar coat the struggles that the author had to face in getting his ministry up and running and supporting his family as a free man. This book therefore serves as a subtle but persuasive case for some measure of reform when it comes to rehabilitation of former criminals who have obviously changed their ways.
One of the most interesting aspects of this work is the way that the author does not romanticize his life and shows how it was that he wasted a great deal of the money he made when he was a drug kingpin to the extent that his family had to struggle mightily while he was in jail and then after he was released. The author’s struggle to work on the straight and narrow given his own experiences makes sense as well, and it is easily to believe that an ex-con, particularly one who had been arrested for drug trafficking on multiple occasions, would have trouble being able to work in the contemporary corporate climate. Hopefully this book can bring more attention to the ministry that the author runs with his wife and to their work in serving others in New York, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere. This author’s story is one that deserve to be better known, not least because of the way that it shows that a man can make serious mistakes and be living a very bad life and then be saved by God in a way that makes it obvious to those around him that he is not the same man he once was, for the better.