I have to say I was very excited to read this book. Ian Cron wrote a book I reviewed earlier in the year entitled Chasing Francis, and I enjoyed his style thoroughly – I even gave the book a good review. But the further I got into this book the more disappointed I became.
Perhaps it was my expectation from the title, but with “Jesus” as the first word I thought Jesus would play a bigger role in the book. But I was sadly mistaken. The book focused on the life of Ian as he grew up with an alcoholic father. This is a story many people relate to and many books are written about, though what sets it apart for Ian is that his father works on-and-off for the CIA. But Jesus? He figures as a minor role in the story at best (let’s be honest – after reading the book I think his Nanny may have had a bigger influence on him that Christ), quite different than what I expected.
The writing was whimsical and I found myself laughing so hard in spots I cried, and if I was reading just any old autobiography of any person who was not claiming to be a Christian and who didn’t include the word “Jesus” in the title I would have given this book 5/5 stars – it was that enjoyable to read. But I was looking for more spiritual insight, more discussion regarding how Ian found Christ and how that experience changed – neigh, transformed – his life. But what I experienced were some passing references to Christ. It gave me a greater understanding of what it must have been like to live with an alcoholic, spy father, but it in no way drew me closer to the cross.
So, regrettably, I have to give this book only 1/5 stars.
I have to agree with Gordon MacDonald who wrote, “I’d like to be part of a church that this hero ends up proposing.” Chasing Francis is a historical novel that tells the story of a disenfranchised, evangelical minister who goes on a pilgrimage (sabbatical?) to rediscover his faith. He makes it very clear that he didn’t loose his love for Jesus but for Jesus’ church. Through traveling to Italy and following the journeys of and studying the life of Francis of Assisi, Chase (the main character) comes to a deeper understanding of what it means to truly follow Christ.
From a theological standpoint, I struggled with the emphasis on Francis instead of a focus on Christ, but I had to remind myself that the book is fiction and not necessarily what we would consider “Christian Living.” However, his final picture of the church he wants to lead is in line with Christ’s vision set out in the Gospels. There are some things I would add to his vision, but I believe the implication behind the story is not that the church needed so much to be only what was presented but needed to add to what it was already doing, while changing some things, to better realize Biblical Christianity.
Over all this book was worth reading and I’d love to participate in a discussion group of it. For the record, I was in tears at the end of it. It’s been a long time since I read a good piece of fiction (literally, probably over 10 years), and this was a great re-introduction to the genre. Overall, I’ll give it 4/5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”