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Where the Light Fell: A Memoir [9781529364224]

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Expand the description and scroll down to view the Preach magazine review.

'Not until college days do I discover the shocking secret of my father's death.'

With a journalist's background Philip Yancey is widely admired for taking on the more difficult and confusing aspects of faith. Now in Where the Light Fell he shares, for the first time, the painful details of his own origins - taking us on an evocative journey from the backwoods and Bible-belt pockets of the South to the bustling streets of Philadelphia; from trailer parks to church parking lots; from dark secrets and family oddballs to fire-and-brimstone preachers and interminable church services. Raised by their impoverished single mother, Philip and his brother Marshall struggle to comprehend her speeches about their dead father, an Old Testament Bible story, and sons sacrificed for a divine cause.

This coming-of-age story is a slice of life, both intensely personal and broadly resonant, set against a turbulent time in post-WWII American history shaped by the racism and paranoia of fundamentalist Christianity and reshaped by the mounting pressures of the Civil Rights movement and 60s-era forces of social change. An unforgettable read, it is at once hugely funny, deeply disturbing and achingly poignant. A testament to the power of the human spirit, Where the Light Fell illuminates Yancey's ability to bring comfort to those bruised by the church, and hope to those who can't imagine ever finding a healthy faith.


In an interview some years ago, Philip Yancey was asked what made his books different to those of many of his fellow Christian authors, and he spoke about the freedom of being able to be totally honest in his writing. While we might assume that honesty was a given in Christian literature, it isn’t: he commented that, unlike many authors, particularly in the evangelical community in the USA, he had no constituency to please, no party lines to keep to. And that same honesty streams throughout this book, a memoir of his troubled childhood.

Philip Yancey grew up poor, in the Deep South of America. His parents were committed Christians, but his father, believing God would heal him after he had been paralysed by polio, chose to take himself out of the iron lung that was keeping him alive – and subsequently died. His widow, Yancey’s mother, made sense of the tragedy by dedicating her two sons to God. They were, she decided, to be missionaries, and she set about to ensure that happened. Whatever the boys felt or wanted didn’t matter, and the subsequent struggles derailed the faith, the life and the health of the elder son, Marshall. Philip, however, only a baby when his father died, managed to hold onto his – and the book is the story of that struggle. He doesn’t come out of it entirely well, either, at times: he admits that he absorbed the racist attitudes of his peers without thinking.

Any Yancey fan – and I am one – will find this book fascinating and absorbing. He has made comments about the Bible-belt of his childhood: the church leaders known more for what they condemned than what they supported, and the almost total lack of grace that he encountered so often. This book puts so much of his other writing into context. His struggles to relate to his mother, to hold onto the good while rightly judging the bad, to keep faith in a good God while the ‘god’ preached around him was anything but – all of these come over and will illuminate and encourage the rest of us. A truly excellent book, and one to have alongside his other classic titles.

Review by Ali Hull for Preach magazine, Issue 30. Ali is a publishing consultant and commissioning editor, current projects include Preach magazine.

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey is one of the most popular and acclaimed religious writers of our day. His searching and refreshingly honest books, which include FINDING GOD IN UNEXPECTED PLACES, SOUL SURVIVOR, PRAYER and WHAT GOOD IS GOD? have encouraged and inspired millions of people around the world.

With a background in journalism, Philip admits that he prefers to ask the questions instead of answer them. This has led him through a path of re-discovering his faith and sharing that publicly through his writing in some of the most heart-felt and tried ways imaginable. A true wordsmith, a curator of language, Philip tackles difficult issues with an approach of 'this is what I've wrestled with and how I got through it so perhaps you might find it helpful too' making his reading incredibly engaging.

Philip admits that he lost his faith in a racist church and made a living out of being a doubter and sceptic. After he came back to his faith, he wrote books about his journey by 'circling the edges' of common issues and eventually moving on to topics like Jesus, grace and most recently prayer.

Billy Graham has said that there is no one in the evangelical world whom he admires more.

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Philip Yancey
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