Book Review – Sent

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I received a pre-release Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There is much to like about this book. It is the story of an American family living “the dream” who is called by God to give it all up to move to a different country and culture filled with people living a different religion in order to help with disaster recovery after a tsunami. Hilary Alan recounts the fears, struggles, joys, and blessings of the adventure God called her family to. The Alan family are a faithful and faith-filled family. Because of that, they hear God’s call and they obey.

Throughout the book Hilary Alan uses her experiences to drive her understanding of scripture and God’s purposes for Christians. Alan shows the power of the gospel and how it can break into lives, even the lives of strict Muslims. She also reveals the power of God to work in the life of a family that fully embraced the American dream and how they discovered God’s dream is bigger than they ever imagined. It is a wonderful story of faithfulness, sacrifice, and genuine love.

While there is much to like, I also had some uneasy feelings as I read her story. I believe the source of my uneasy feelings is unmet expectations. This was a book about a family who traded the American dream in order to follow God’s greater purpose. This created a set of expectations for me. I will mention three expectations that weren’t quite met:

1) I expected that Alan would have written from a more family perspective. While she did discuss her family, the book seemed to be mostly from her perspective. I’m not sure how her husband felt about everything, but I learned about her perspective on her husband, what he was going through, and very little about his work. For some this will not be a problem. However, I kept wanting to know a bit more about her husband’s perspective.

2) I expected that she would dive deeper into internal struggles that a new culture brings. She does recount struggles of uprooting family and moving to a new culture. Yet, I did not sense there was any time where she felt she had ‘missed it’. I would think there would be times of great and deep confusion as cultures clashed. Instead, she seemed to know what to do and when to do it. Perhaps this reflects how deeply culture is imbibed. As an American, I’ve become sensitive to how we seem to always believe we have the answers to anything we come up against, even believing we know more (or better) than those who are native to the culture. I expected more of a deep questioning of the American way of thinking and doing.

3) I expected that they lived in southeast Asia more than three years. I’m not sure that three years is not enough time to mentally move out of one’s culture. I think this is the main source of my uneasiness. I expected that this book was by a family who had moved to southeast Asia to stay and it recounted their struggles as they grew to appreciate a new culture, while seeing the flaws of the old culture. Three years is quite a while to live outside your home culture, but I’m not sure it is enough to truly understand the culture.

Given the nature and story of the book, I feel bad for my mixed feelings. Again, there is much to like and enjoy about this book. The Alan’s spent three years overseas.Their faithfulness should be recognized and imitated. Yet, three years is not enough to fully understand or perhaps even appreciate a foreign culture. Perhaps acknowledging their time there, while at the same time, recognizing there was much more to learn about the culture may have helped.

I do recommend this book, because it is an honest account of an American family who heard the call of God to a greater purpose. God continues to invite each of us into adventures of his kingdom. They might not look like the Alan’s adventure in southeast Asia, but the Alan’s journey of faithfulness and answered calling is one we can and should discover for ourselves.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

2 Replies to “Book Review – Sent”

  1. i have lived overseas for only two years, and when you’re pushed into a small area full of people and culture, while just being a stay-at-home mom with lots of time to talk to people in your neighborhood and experience things, it’s very difficult NOT to know everything about a culture. 3 years is a long time, and I don’t know why you should be judging them for that when you obviously, by that comment, have not lived in another country for atleast 3 years. even one year is a great deal of time to learn from the people around you, when all you have is that asian culture without even a little bubble of foreigners to surround yourself with, you become a person of that culture, you grow into it, there’s no other way to escape it.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry if my review sounded like I was judging this family. That was not my intention whatsoever. What they did was a wonderful example of following Christ.

      What I was trying to communicate was my “expectation” concerning the book. All I knew about the book was a short description which did not state the family ever came back to the states.

      I thought the book was about a family who left the comforts of America and followed Jesus to a different culture. In the foreign land they learned the culture, saw the differences from their own, grew to love the new culture, became a part of it, and never returned to America.

      While the Alan’s story was great, it was not the story I had expected. I did not mean the review as any type of judgment against the family. Only that I thought they were still there and they were writing from the perspective of being fully assimilated into that culture.

      I wondered if they had come to be fully assimilated into the new culture. Perhaps I should have written that I wonder if someone can become _fully_ assimilated in a foreign culture in three years. Perhaps they can. I just don’t know.

      My interest in the book was more about cultural assimilation, especially from an American perspective. I believe that those outside of the American culture have much to teach those of us within that culture. I know I have learned much about my culture, my assumptions, my values, etc., from those I know _from_ other cultures (who still live in those cultures). Culture is so pervasive it becomes the air we breathe and we don’t notice how much culture shapes our values and priorities. I expected to be challenged at that level and while she did address it somewhat, my expectation was more challenge to my American perspective.

      Again, I do recommend the book.

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