A pastor revisits the most difficult trials of his life while affirming his faith.
Debut author Ridulph begins his memoir with a nostalgic longing for the 1950s, writing, “Growing up at the time and in the place where I grew up was the next best thing to perfect.” His hometown of Sycamore, Illinois, was seemingly a real-life Mayberry until his family was struck by a tragic, unimaginable crime. On December 3, 1957, his younger sister, Maria, disappeared. The family waited an agonizing year for her body to be discovered and was left with only questions. “I did have peace knowing that Maria was in the arms of her Lord and Savior,” Ridulph writes. “But my life was forever changed.” Ridulph then dips in and out of the present, relating both the events of Maria’s disappearance 50 years ago and the stunning trials that occurred only within the last few years. Now a preacher who has overcome an addiction to alcohol and started his own family, Ridulph knows the man who murdered Maria to be Jack McCullough, a neighbor from his idyllic hometown. Justice however, has not been so easy to achieve. Ridulph and his family tried to navigate a tangle of politics and legal maneuverings as defense attorneys worked to free McCullough. In his despair and frustration, Ridulph found hope in his prayers, which he includes in every chapter. These prayers, like most of Ridulph’s writing, are filled with raw emotion and power, but their placement here undercuts the work’s overall impact. Rather than enlighten his mental and spiritual state, they become tangents that feel unnecessarily long. The memoir’s nonchronological structure also leads to some confusion. Both the kidnapping and a later rape trial are mentioned casually before readers know what they are referencing, leaving readers to backtrack. Despite these structural issues, Ridulph still offers Christian readers a bold look into the emotions surrounding a tragedy.
A powerful but sometimes-confusing
memoir about pain and perseverance.