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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.