I grew up about an hour south of where the majority of Jerry's story takes place and even though I wasn't raised in the Pentecostal church, I can verify that his descriptions of the area and its people are 100% accurate. I'm also an "in the closet" atheist with my family for fear of being shunned, so I connected with Jerry's story in more ways than one.
I'm glad I listened to the Audiobook rather than read the print version. There's something about Jerry reading it himself that really transports you into the story. It makes it that much more personal and I think added a lot to the experience. Jerry's down-to-earth voice had me smiling when he was chuckling at retelling some of his stories.
Jerry starts off talking about his life growing up and what led him to be a minister. He also describes how difficult this was financially for himself and his family. He had a strong desire to find the "right" branch of Pentecostalism - a journey that took him to Arizona and even had him move to Iowa for a short time. During his search, Jerry realized that what he'd been looking for didn't exist in those places - at first in organized religion, and then in any religion at all.
It truly is an amazing story of self-discovery, a theme that's so often played out in movies and tv and books that it can be hard to find a fresh story that really makes you think. Jerry's story was anything but played out. I have a 30 minute commute to work and, as someone who despises driving, found myself upset when I'd arrive at work or at home. I'd get out of the car and put on my headphones just to catch a few extra minutes while walking to the office and sneak in a few more at lunch.
The most poignant part of Jerry's story came when he finally admitted he was an atheist after flirting with the idea for some time. He realized he'd never see his father, grandfather, and cousin again. He describes the range of emotions he went through, from anger to anguish and finally, acceptance - even though he knew what repurcussions this would have within his family and his community. The part where he realizes he'll never see his father again was particularly heart wrenching because I went through a nearly identical scene when I lost my dad. Realizing I was an atheist and saying goodbye forever was one of the most difficult moments of my life and I was tearing up as Jerry relived his experience for us.
Jerry's detailed writing helps put the reader/listener right into the story. His vivid descriptions put you right in the middle of everything, from the extravagant churches to his office in city hall. It doesn't matter if you're atheist or religious, questioning what you believe or secure with where you stand - this is a great story and a wonderfully written book. Five stars.
I love Bryan Cranston and my Dad was a Vietnam Vet so I really wanted to like this but I found myself being bored. My husband and I were listening to it on a long drive and didn't make it very far in before we decided to turn it off.
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