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The theologian’s memoir is refreshingly raw about the wounds he’s suffered—and the wounds he’s inflicted.

What’s most endearing about Even in Our Darkness, the new memoir from theologian Jack Deere, is also what’s most difficult: its rawness. Before picking it up, be warned: You will hold your breath for pages at a time, even to the last page. The reader never really gets any sort of break, which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing as the author has never seemed to get one either.

Deere was born the child of drinkers and drifters. Suicide and substance abuse, violence and anger, were the fabric of his life. And yet this book reads less like a tell-all or “Ten Excuses for My Dysfunctions” and more like the kind of story that reminds us Jesus came for the sick, not for the well.

Balancing the Scales

Deere grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. He regales us with stories of youthful escapades and sexual conquests; with examples of good discipline by his father and abuse by his mother. He does not shy from coarse language, a fact for which this reader was grateful. In an endnote, he explains, “To tell my story any other way would have been to diminish its authenticity and power.” (Instead of punishing Deere for calling his mother derogatory names, his father takes a moment to truly explain what these expletives mean, a moment of discipline that becomes more important as the story goes on.).

As Deere endures this whiplashed childhood (literally and figuratively), we can see the internal tension with which he wrestles. He knows there is something innately unjust, something not right, about his family life, yet he lacks a firm example of what is right. Except for the presence of his “Nonnie,” his maternal grandmother who is married to the wildly abusive “Poppa,” Deere has no role models of …

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