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Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Heroes and Monsters" (Josh James Riebock)

TITLE: Heroes and Monsters: An Honest Look at the Struggle within All of Us
AUTHOR: Josh James Riebock
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (304 pages).

Simply brilliant! In one book, Riebock pieces together his past, weaves in his relationships with his parents, his family and friends, reflects on faith through his interactions with a fictitious name 'Jack,' and treats readers to episodes after episodes of 'heroes-and-monsters' scenes of his own life. It is biographical as he details his childhood years to his dating attempts; his marriage and his near flirtation with a writer in a bar; and his foray into the field of writing. It is also reflective as he scans his own life's search for meaningful work. Having served as a youth pastor, then as a full-time writer/speaker, he blends in job search with his personal understanding of vocation, what he is called to do and to be. It is also deeply personal as he deals with the highs and lows of his life. Some of his traumatic experiences include the horror of seeing his house burned down, being in a car crash with his father in the corn field, and the fear of his sister's child getting a terrible illness. It is also a spiritual journal of sorts, that depends on a person by the name of Jack to guide him in his thoughts and living.

It is a book about his checkered relationships with his parents, especially his father, his past dates, his close encounter of the flirtatious kind that highlights the struggles that beset an ordinary guy. He talks about his job as a youth pastor as well as his foray into romance. He writes vividly with illustrations, dreams, and creative images. Some of his reflections are immensely quotable.

  • GRATITUDE OF RECEIVING: "We always think we need more than we do, and my dad has always given us more than we need." (14)
  • ENIGMA OF LIFE: "He says something is horribly wrong with the world, with life, and with people too. But then he says that the world and life and people aren't total horror. Jack says there is good in the world and good in people." (23)
  • HOARDING DESCRIPTION: "Of course, next came the task of finding a place to stick it all. This was a lot like playing Tetris - the strategic shifting and rotating of objects - and it became a greater and greater challenge as the years rolled by and the closer, shelf, and room space ran out." (29)
  • ON LOVE: "Love without communication is guessing. To love is to be intentional. To love is to innovate. Inventive love is divine. Without creativity, love doesn't exist. Every true lover is a creator. If I'm not creating, I'm not loving - " (105)
  • FRIENDSHIP: "A friend is someone who will die to keep us from becoming anyone else, someone who fights for us against a world that is constantly trying to shrink us into shelved canisters labeled 'how you're supposed to be.' A friend does everything possible to make sure we become who we are made to be - nothing less, nothing more." (124)
  • INTIMACY:  That intimacy happens in places where we most try to hide. (202)

There are enough twists and turns in the book to keep readers thirsting for more. The splicing together of the author's life stories is done so creatively that one marvels how an ordinary life can be told so spectacularly. This is due credit to a brilliant writer. If you want to be inspired to write your own stories better, learn from this book. If you want to practice honest re-telling of your own stories, savor this book. If you want to be encouraged by how God is able to accept us for who we are, warts and all, buy this book.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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