Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book Review: Abandon

I have very mixed feelings writing this review. Its official rating from me on GoodReads and Amazon will be 2 out of 5, though it's really more like a 2.8 (but no, that doesn't round up). I have no doubts that Tim's heart is in the right place, and that he means very well, and that this is only a beginning step in all he has been gifted to share, but Abandon falls just enough short that I can't roll that into a it's-the-thought-that-counts kind of review.

Abandon: Laying Aside Your Plan for God's Purpose is meant to be a primer for stepping out into full faith, leaving behind worldly and selfish plans and walking into the mystery God has in store for your life, whatever that may turn out to mean. While it's not a new concept for a book, there's nothing wrong with new voices for new generations--there wasn't actually much revolutionary in Blue Like Jazz when we read it ten years ago, but it was someone speaking these things for us, for my generation, and there is real value to that. But what opens with solid points and minimal distractions begins to slump, and by the last few chapters my margin notes included "What is the purpose of this?" and "No idea why this chapter is in here."

The most frustrating angle of this is Tim has the bones of a really solid book here. He makes some nice points in his first chapters about stepping away from formulaic religion and lip service, but [similar to my last reviewed book, The Esther Blessing] the problems come with tying in the story of Jacob. While there are a handful of solid connections between Jacob's story and where Tim's going, it's not enough to keep us bouncing back and forth, and ends up being a stumbling block. 

Amid, and gradually outpacing, Tim's strong points are distractions and issues:
- Brevity can be a strength, but here it comes off as rushed, as nearly an outline with a plan to return and fill in the gaps later. My paperback clocks at 172 pages, but the word count would reveal it to be much shorter, between large type, heavy spacing, frequent bullets, and nearly-every-page callouts (a tweetable quote from the page, complete with #Abandon).
- There's a consistent feel of being hurried, like Tim only had so much paper on which to write: "I've taken the time to list a few [ideas on prayer] that stick out to me" introduces a page and a half...on the Lord's prayer (114-116); after giving two examples for a point, "I could continue with this list for a long time but I won't. I think the point has been made" (121). This isn't helped by the frequency of typos, including in one of the tweetable callouts, p. 82.
- Audience questions: most of the time, Tim sticks to the pretty standard examples of sacrifice and fear: money (job/house/possessions) and marriage. This is fine, but personalizing and getting specific can do a lot. There are also some weird moments that beg the question, Who is your audience? "You're scared you won't be able to live on a five-figure instead of a six-figure salary" (54). ...I've never met these people you're talking to, Tim.

Overall, the book is more disorganized than problematic. While there are many books I'd point to before this one, I wouldn't pull it from someone's hands. That said, when dealing with an entry-level book like this, odd phrasing and throwaway sentences can find places to burn and breed in a new or reignited believer's head. One example: "The time is right to stop listening to the if onlys and start understanding that God has made many difficult sacrifices to give you your unique identity" (45). A hang-up many of us work through in our early years as a Christian is clarifying the God-as-parent metaphor, separating the inevitable human brokenness of our parents from His perfection. But here, Tim doesn't seems to be detailing God as sacrificing himself for love, but as a guilt trip. [Frustration point: On the very next page, a very well-done clarification on giving up your life.]

The marketing copy and front blurbs clearly set this as a book that will provide easy steps to follow to find "your secret to living the life beyond your wildest dreams!" (back cover). In Tim's efforts to tie in his life experience, the story of Jacob, and some generic "this is what you need to do" language, he gets lost somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, Abandon suffers too much from these hang-ups and stumbles shy of being what it could.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. 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 Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

1 comment:

  1. "...nearly-every-page callouts (a tweetable quote from the page, complete with #Abandon)"

    Sigh. Can people not be trusted to find things *they* find inspiring and share it however and with whomever they wish?
    I feel like tweetable call-outs are our generation's version of those "Kodak moments" commercials.
    Good review, coz!