A search for faith amid war, terror, and family strife.
Covington (Creative Writing/Texas Tech Univ.; Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of an American Dream, 2003, etc.) purports to look for faith against the backdrop of a violent world. Though he occasionally stays on course, the narrative takes a variety of detours, frustrating readers and muddling his work. The author begins in Juárez, where drug-inspired violence has spread out of control for years. He recounts the work of one preacher who, in addition to burning an effigy of Judas to drive Satan out of the city, runs an inspiring ministry, aiding those living, and escaping from, lives of violence. Covington goes on to recount visits to Turkey, and to the Turkey-Syria border, where he encountered both victims of and participants in the violence. Covington also crossed over into Syria, witnessing firsthand the horror of war. This timely and page-turning section represents the author at his best, as he ably conveys the otherworldly scene of suffering and brutality. However, he continually reverts back to his own personal story. In page after page of self-catharsis, Covington describes growing up with his older brother, a troubled young man who ended up in mental hospitals and nursing homes; his two failed marriages; and his own mental health issues, including a lack of a will to live after returning from Syria. Though not without merit, these sections continually detract from the author’s real mission. Faith, in fact, has little to do with this book. Covington does not have it, nor do most of the people he met during his travels. When he does address people of faith in the midst of violence, he is unable to report on their thoughts and motives with the depth needed for a book on the topic.
Far from uninteresting but too often self-indulgent and unsatisfying.