Where the Light Fell
In this searing meditation on the bonds of family and the allure of extremist faith, one of today’s most celebrated Christian writers recounts his unexpected journey from a strict fundamentalist upbringing to a life of compassion and grace—a revelatory memoir that “invites comparison to Hillbilly Elegy” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
“Searing, heartrending . . . This stunning tale reminds us that the only way to keep living is to ask God for the impossible: love, forgiveness, and hope.”—Kate Bowler, New York Times bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason
Raised by an impoverished widow who earned room and board as a Bible teacher in 1950s Atlanta, Philip Yancey and his brother, Marshall, found ways to venture out beyond the confines of their eight-foot-wide trailer. But when Yancey was in college, he uncovered a shocking secret about his father’s death—a secret that began to illuminate the motivations that drove his mother to extreme, often hostile religious convictions and a belief that her sons had been ordained for a divine cause.
Searching for answers, Yancey dives into his family origins, taking us on an evocative journey from the backwoods of the Bible Belt to the bustling streets of Philadelphia; from trailer parks to church sanctuaries; from family oddballs to fire-and-brimstone preachers and childhood awakenings through nature, music, and literature. In time, the weight of religious and family pressure sent both sons on opposite paths—one toward healing from the impact of what he calls a “toxic faith,” the other into a self-destructive spiral.
Where the Light Fell is a gripping family narrative set against a turbulent time in post–World War II America, shaped by the collision of Southern fundamentalism with the mounting pressures of the civil rights movement and Sixties-era forces of social change. In piecing together his fragmented personal history and his search for redemption, Yancey gives testament to the enduring power of our hunger for truth and the possibility of faith rooted in grace instead of fear.
“I truly believe this is the one book I was put on earth to write,” says Yancey. “So many of the strands from my childhood—racial hostility, political division, culture wars—have resurfaced in modern form. Looking back points me forward.”
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In this memoir, best-selling Christian author Philip Yancey offers a visceral account of his own spiritual journey. Growing up poor in civil rights–era Atlanta, Philip and his gifted older brother, Marshall, shuttled between trailer parks and Bible camps, where they learned about life from strict Baptist preachers and their abusive widowed mother. By high school, the brothers began to confront the racism and hypocrisy of the fire-and-brimstone fundamentalism they were steeped in, setting them on different paths. Like a modern-day Augustine, Yancey writes in matter-of-fact tones about both the wonders and trauma of his childhood while also attempting to take responsibility for the troubling beliefs of his past. Where the Light Fell reveals how faith in God sustained the author in his darkest hours and led him to a deeper understanding of human frailty.
Christian writer Yancey (What's So Amazing About Grace?) excavates his roots in the fundamentalist South in the 1950s and '60s in this gripping memoir. Yancey was a year old when his preacher father died of polio after asking to be removed from treatment, expecting faith would heal him. Left alone with two toddlers, Yancey's mother made her way as a Bible teacher who was well-regarded by her students but increasingly feared by her two young sons for her temper and her punishments. As Yancey entered his teens he saw himself as "born and bred a racist" and began to slowly unlearn the "Lost Cause myth" while questioning his fundamentalist church community: "A growing part of me resists the image of a red-neck fundamentalist." During the social and political tumult of the '60s, Yancey's older brother, Marshall, became a hippie and was estranged from their mother, forcing Yancey to confront his growing inner turmoil. He goes on to describe a religious awakening at Bible college, where he also met the woman who would become his wife. Yancey's eloquent descriptions of coming to faith and his exacting self-examination make this a standout. Exploring the corrosive role of fear in faith, Yancey's piercing and painful account invites comparison to Hillbilly Elegy.