An eclectic memoir focuses on the author’s spiritual life.
Debut author West begins his memoir by recounting a serious heart attack he had at the age of 63, which served to remind him about the precariousness and finitude of life. The entire remembrance reflects on the nature of time and its passage and the opportunities for service to God. The work unfolds kaleidoscopically, more a catalog of thematically tied meditations than a conventional autobiography. West ponders the meaning and significance of gratitude and love, the relationship between faith and reason, and the beatific power of music. He also provides moving paean to his family, in particular to his younger brother, Cornel West, who furnishes a similarly affectionate foreword to the book. The author’s life has been an eventful one. In 1955, he was a student in the first integrated kindergarten class in Topeka, Kansas, following Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He was a prodigious track-and-field runner in high school and won an athletic scholarship to the University of California. West married his high school sweetheart, had two children, worked as a deacon, and wrote an astounding number of songs—some were recorded on albums. He triumphed over stage 3 prostate cancer. The real fulcrum of West’s retrospection, though, is his commitment to living a loving life, the “blueprint” of which he found in the Bible. The work is profoundly philosophical and ranges widely from theology to race. The writing is floridly poetic, though without any sacrifice of clarity: “To be truly beautiful, one must suffer. But yet, be assured, after a night of affliction, there is joy that comes in the morning.” West provides some dark prognostications about the future, a kind of comeuppance for the indulgence of vanity, but in the main, this is an indefatigably optimistic book, which joyously celebrates the power of love.
A deeply thoughtful account of the demands and rewards of Christian devotion.