Ryan Reid is a young man who has built a good life, finding Christ as a teenager, and doing his best to put his painful past behind him. But he has a secret. He is sexually attracted to men, even though he has never acted on it. Ryan is tormented by his same sex attraction, desiring to live a God-honoring life and wishing he could establish a future as a husband with a wife and children someday. But he has never felt that way towards a woman.
Then one day he meets Sandy Arrington when she turns to him for comfort during an earthquake. Sandy is drawn to Ryan, his gentle strength and courage and his inner light. She wants to know more about Ryan, and his God that gives him such peace. Sandy is afraid of the dark and afraid to live alone (she still lives with her parents despite a successful career in nursing) due to a past trauma, and Ryan's faith encourages her. Their friendship leads her to the Lord and she quickly falls in love with Ryan. Ryan cares for Sandy as a friend, but deep down, he struggles with his identity and doesn't feel he can love her back. Ryan is also facing nasty rumors spread by disgruntled coworkers that might expose his secret shame. Ryan goes on a journey of healing as he realizes that his identity in Christ gives him the strength to choose the life he wants to live and to break free of the past.
Ryan's Father is a heartfelt, emotionally powerful story of how our past hurts can damage our identities and leave us enslaved to wrong beliefs about ourselves. June Foster is courageous to tackle such a controversial subject, homosexuality in the Christian community. Her approach is loving and honest about what the Bible says about homosexuality and what is expected of believers who rely on Christ's transforming power to live their lives. Undoubtedly, readers will be challenged by the truths and expectations of Christians as far as this issue. However, the author always stands on the fact that God loves us despite our flaws and there is healing and freedom no matter what we face.
Ryan's struggles were heartbreaking and made me cry throughout the book. He's a hero that a reader cannot help but love and hope he finds peace. Readers can find inspiration in his deep, profound love for Jesus and his desire to live a life that shows his love for God. Sandy is a good counterpart for him, with her sweet, loving spirit. Her desire to find the peace that Ryan has and her journey of faith is affecting.
I was conflicted about the portrayal of Ryan's sexuality and the rapid evolution of his feelings for Sandy. I felt that it wasn't always authentic. I appreciated the author's note at the end in which she admitted that a person who struggles with same sex attraction may not have the same quick change in his sexual feelings and evolution in his identity that Ryan has. Still, it just didn't ring as true as I would have liked. Additionally, Sandy's reaction wasn't realistic. I felt that someone who is a new Christian, and who is not "indoctrinated" in the church would be less likely to react so strongly to this issue. Also, some of the language used towards homosexuality and sin in general did push some buttons I have, although I did like that Ryan's congregation always showed humility and love towards others and genuine encouragement to them in their shortcomings. One good thing was the book gave me something to think about and it does address a pertinent issue in the church.
Ultimately, I think readers will feel divided about this book. Its view of homosexuality and its roots in past trauma and familial dysfunction will be offensive to some who don't view it as sin, and others will see her portrayal as upholding biblical truth. Although the stance towards homosexuality wasn't positive, the fact that God is a loving God who wants the best for his children and loves them regardless shines through in this book. While I wasn't completely satisfied with the execution of this novel, I respect the author's desire to write a story that would give a voice to people in the Christian community who deal with this issue every day.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
*Reviewed by guest reviewer, Danielle Hill.
You May Also Enjoy
Give Us This Day by June Foster
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook