I just finished reading Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir … of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron.
Maybe the jacket blurb from the archbishop of Canterbury (!) will help: “This is neither a simple memoir of hurt endured, nor a tidy story of reconciliation and resolution. It is – rather like Augustine’s Confessions – a testimony to the unfinished business of grace.”
Ian Cron grew up with an alcoholic father, a reality that shapes his life to this day. At age 16, he discovered the surreal truth that his father was a member of the CIA. When he wasn’t unemployed.
This is not a typical memoir.
Having grown up in a family of teetotalers, I can’t exactly relate to Cron’s harrowing, sometimes bizarre tales, but he has a way of telling the story that puts the reader in his shoes. Each sentence puts us closer to understanding – and feeling – his pain.
Ever since I began reading the book, I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe his writing style. Understated hilarity. Reverently irreverent. Dry witted. Brutally honest, no doubt, but in a gentle way. (Can you be brutal and gentle in the same breath?)
Cron is Anne Lamott for the clean-mouthed crowd. No F-bombs, no I-hate-Republicans rants. Just honest – and real.
Cron finds grace in the simple yet profound truths of life and makes them, yes, hilarious in an understated way (maybe that’s the definition of a dry wit). At times I laughed out loud, many times I chuckled, sometimes I merely smiled.
“The music at St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church] won me over as well. I’d never been in a church where people sang with so much enthusiasm. Catholics don’t sing – we murmur, then look surprised if a melody emerges.”
The simple. And the profound:
“I can see the couch from the kitchen. I stop cutting parsley and remember that [my mother] taught me how to ride the Dragon Coaster and what to do when you’re flung into the mouth of whatever it is you think will kill you. Throw up your arms and laugh until you come out the other side. That lesson has saved my life once or twice.”
I’m no good at writing book reviews. I just know when I like a book, or when I love a book – this one, for example – and I enthusiastically tell my friends they should read it. Some books fit into a niche, useful for a particular segment of the population; this one doesn’t fit into a neat category. It is for everyone looking for grace.
Aren’t we all?
This review is part of my agreement with BookSneeze. The publisher sends me a free book, and I agree to post a review of it on my blog and one other online publication. No pressure is put on me to write a positive review – just an honest one. (Click here to learn how you can get in on this sweet deal.)