Official Review: Finding Heaven in the Dark by Mallory Whitaker  30 Aug 2017

Published September 17, 2017

Official Review: Finding Heaven in the Dark

by Mallory Whitaker  30 Aug 2017

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Finding Heaven in the Dark” by William L. Ingram.]

3 out of 4 stars
Review by Mallory Whitaker

Have you ever felt like your mind is working against you? That you are too bogged down by negative thoughts about both you and the people around you? That you are your own worst enemy? In his spiritual memoir, Finding Heaven in the Dark, William L. Ingram explores the idea of the “enemy mind” and how he has conquered his through the lost art of Christian Meditation.

The book is divided into two parts. The narrative is nonlinear, but the author does it in such a way that it’s not difficult to know when and where things are taking place. Ingram’s natural storytelling abilities coupled with his casual tone makes the narrative flow effortlessly. Ingram is personable and relatable.

The reader first meets Ingram when he’s twenty-one years old and has turned himself into the U.S. Marine Corps after three years of being AWOL. This is also the first time he communicates with his family after three years of silence. It’s a modern version of the Prodigal Son. The book explores the psychological effects of events and relationships during his childhood and how these led him to join, and eventually leave, the Marines. The largest portion of the book focuses on the three years he spent at a skid-row mission in Los Angeles. Here he redefines his religion and makes leaps and bounds on the road to self-discovery and redemption.

The novel takes place during the tumultuous 1960s; this provides the book with a colorful setting. Ingram is a young African-American male trying to find his way during a time when so many are trying to redefine not only themselves, but the American culture. He explores things like racism (which he faults both sides for), the hippie movement, a group I was unaware of called “Freaks for Jesus”, and the effects of the Vietnam War on the American psyche. All of this leads to Ingram being surrounded by very colorful characters who bring this rich history to life. It also illustrates that Ingram isn’t the only wayward spirit in a rush to identify himself without first learning who he is. This journey of self-discovery is a prominent theme in this book, especially in Part II.

In Part I, Ingram is shown as both the best and worst versions of himself. First, there’s the reformed Ingram turning himself in to face the music (and his family). Then there’s the immature Ingram who left the Marines, his family, and frequently succumbed his vice of choice. This juxtaposition effectively shows just how far he’s come during those three years. The flashbacks to his youth show the reader everything they need to know about how Ingram came to be the disillusioned, bitter and self-conscious person he was prior to his discovery of Christian Meditation.

While Part I was engrossing, as well as the first half of Part II, it took an unfortunate turn towards the end. As Ingram becomes confident in his beliefs, the dialogue is solely long-winded and repetitive lectures or monologues that are poorly disguised as conversation. If these were less frequent, I would have enjoyed it more. The book starts feeling less like a memoir and more like a sermon. It wasn’t particularly captivating.

However, he does explore some thought-provoking ideas. Obviously, he explores the art of Christian Meditation, which he calls “Be Still and Know”. In very simplistic terms, it’s about being in the present and eliminating all extraneous thoughts, like self-doubt and judgements, through the power of God. Ingram goes much deeper than this, but as this is a large portion of the book, I’ll leave it at that.

Ingram also explores the different methods people use to get closer to God and, not too surprisingly, believes that his is the superior, if not only, method. He explores the themes of “primitive Christianity” versus “born-again Christianity”, as well as “Christianity” versus what he calls “Churchianity”. Typical members of “Churchianity” are those who “parrot” Biblical verses. He calls them the “hypno-Christians”. Ingram has little patience for organized religion.

Despite making some good points during his debates, the kind-hearted and open-minded Ingram can come off as a little patronizing. His relentless and burning passion can make a lot of these moments forgivable. It also helps that those who disagree with him are often painted in a terrible light, making them look more like caricatures than real people. In comparison to these individuals, Ingram always looks more favorable.

The book could probably use one more round of editing. While the grammatical errors weren’t constant, they progressively became more frequent as the book carried on. Almost all of these errors involve missing quotation marks. All in all, they weren’t too distracting.

The author’s knowledge, passion, and colorful life story make for a truly intriguing read. However, like I said before, its hold drops off about two-thirds of the way through as Ingram becomes repetitive, a little patronizing and, honestly, seems a little desperate for the reader to think he is much deeper and more profound than those around him. These grievances, alongside the technical errors, lead me to give this book three out of four stars.

I would recommend this book to readers who are exploring Christianity and/or meditation, enjoy reading stories reminiscent of the Prodigal Son, or are trying to find ways to cope with their own inner demons and seek an inner peace. I wouldn’t recommend this book to those who don’t like reading about spiritual journeys or get bored with philosophical and theological debates. There is mild language in this book.

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Finding Heaven in the Dark
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