One man’s slow drift away from the faith of his father.
Looking back on his younger years, biographer Lax (Conversations with Woody Allen, 2007, etc.) provides an intriguing coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Vietnam era. The son of an Episcopal priest, religion played an important role in much of the author’s life, but it is not always at the center of this autobiography. Lax begins with his childhood as the son of two models of Christian piety. Through his parents the author learned about integrity and loving his neighbor, and it was because of their good example that he accepted the Christian faith without question. He entered Hobart College in 1962 and things began to change: “The Book of Common Prayer, where I had been content to find my answers, was suddenly a slim volume indeed.” After Hobart, Lax was faced with the formidable quandary of his day, Vietnam and the draft. He struggled with the decision of whether or not to declare himself a conscientious objector, and whether his growing pacifist beliefs were indeed genuine or self-serving. To avoid both the draft and the conscientious-objector question for a time, he enrolled in the Peace Corps. Assigned to the Truk Islands in Micronesia, Lax spent two years on a tiny island of 185 inhabitants. This tale alone provides a fascinating core for the book, but Lax also juxtaposes his experiences with those of a close friend who enrolled as an Army officer in Vietnam. His friend returned from an intense and horrifying war experience and entered seminary, while Lax came back from the Peace Corps and eventually applied for conscientious-objector status. As his friend became a priest and then a bishop, Lax’s faith slowly receded, and the book comes to a melancholy end with the death of his parents.
A well-written autobiography, artfully folding in another’s story, and alternate course, along with the author’s own.