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Monday, June 13, 2011

Far From a Captivating Story

Out of a Far Country
Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan
204 pp. Published 2011

When I first picked up this book I was hesitant.  The tagline on the frontcover read: “A gay son’s journey to God.  A broken mother’s search for hope” and this gave me pause.  Did I really want to read a book about a gay man and his mother?  I almost put the book down as soon as I picked it up, believing that this book would be boring and irrelevant.

My instincts were correct.

Angela Yuan struggles with accepting her son’s sexuality while, at the same time, tries to strengthen her marriage with her detatched husband, Leon.  Meanwhile, Christopher deals with a drug addiction and, later on, prison life.  While this memoir is heartouching at points it also lacks any depth.

Both authors skirt around the deeper issues of what brought them to Christ. 

Christopher’s recollections of his life prior to becoming a Christian are delivered in a simplistic and repetative manner: “…I became popular in the gay club scene….I started bartending for fun – and was quite successful at it.  My outgoing personality and good physqiue made a difference in that seetting, where bartenders often worked shirtless to show off their bodies” (11).  Christohpher continually mentions his excellent physique and how outgoing he is and the acceptence he received from the gay community.   After hearing this for the next twenty pages I was ready to shake the author and say “So what!  We get it already, move on!” 

As Christopher’s life progreses, his ability to write candidly does not.  While I’m sure that Christopher truly experienced God’s love, I don’t get any sense of that through his writing.  The writing is such that one day he is arguging with his parents about God and Christianity: “’I don’t want your stupid Bible.  I don’t even want you to think I might read it!’ Christopher yelled.  ‘I don’t want your religion….And if you ever, ever bring up God or the Bible, you will never see me again’” (109).  Then, next thing you know, Christopher is reading the Bible himself: “I bent over and picked up a Gideon’s New Testament.  It was brandnew and not even opened.  I carried it back to my cell and thought, I’ve got a ton of time on my hands.  I might as well have something to do” (129). 

In much the same way, Angela’s story does not delve into the deeper issues.  While I understand that this book is about her struggles to accept her son’s sexuality and her journey to help him to Christ, I would have appreciated to hear more of her own story.   Angela continually laments the fact that both her sons rebelled.  “When both my sons rebelled against their upbringing and the things our family valued most, it was hard not to wonder whether Leon and I had failed them” (54).  And, until she and her husband reconcile, Angela continually reflects on the fact that Leon is distant and unemotional: “No doubt Leon was headed to bed.  He didn’t seem to care that I was still sitting in the car.  He’d be fast asleep before long” (41).  I’m sure what she was going through was difficult and extremely trying for a woman new to her faith, but it was getting extremely tedious to hear the same words over and over again.

While I am sure some readers might find Out of a Far Country to be a good book and one that really resinates with their own lifes, I found it to be tedious and, at times, very boring.  There is an age-old adage in the writing world – “Show, don’t tell.”  Unfortunately, Angela and Christopher Yuan have not learned this adage.  Their story is riddled with telling and no showing.

The upside to this book, in my opinon, was the short and easily skimmed chapters.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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