Tuesday, March 14, 2006

With or Without -- A Review

With or Without: A Spiritual Journey Through Love and Divorce by Cameron Conant (Orlando: RelevantBooks.Com, 2005) US$12.99

A Review by Richard Kew

I met Cameron Conant several weeks ago at a social gathering, a delightful thirty-ish who told me that he had recently published his first book. I had so enjoyed the time I had spent with Cameron that I had soon logged into Amazon.com and ordered With or Without, not really knowing what to expect. I can report that the book was well worth the purchase price.

I wrote Cameron the other day and told him that one of the first adjectives to come to mind about that book was "charming," but that really doesn't work because the topic is a demanding one. It is charming because it is wonderfully written, but the raw agony of marrying, trying to hold the relationship together, and then it coming apart makes this a worthwhile but not a comfortable read.

The next adjective I explored was "mature," because Cameron demonstrates a capacity at handling such an anguished topic that is delightfully GenX-ish, but then at the same time is more perceptive than most folks who are many years his senior. It illustrates how this Christian man was really determined to learn the hard lessons that come from being part of a broken marriage, and to put it in words that will help others struggling in similar ways. He does not settle for flip answers, he does not apportion blame unjustly, and he makes himself agonizingly vulnerable by his stark honesty.

I couldn't help comparing With our Without to the job C. S. Lewis does in A Grief Observed, as he attempted to lay his soul bare as he marshalled all that was going on inside himself following the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. Lewis did not try to hide his innermost being, and neither does Cameron Conant as he worked his way through the death of his marriage. I see in Conant's book a man who has been forced to grow up quickly and move beyond simple answers to difficult questions that will probably plague him forever.

I was touched by the portrait of 'Sara,' his former wife, a woman who he obviously loved with ardor, but who herself was wrestling with familial and personal inner darkness that brought her own cloud into their marriage. I found myself feeling intensely for this woman, and the inability that each of these young people had in completing the other in a manner that would have enabled them to fullfil their vows about their relationship ending only when death intervenes. When I had finished reading the book I found myself wondering where 'Sara' is now, how she has recovered from this trauma, and what she is up to.

I read this book the week before we began The Marriage Course at our church, one of the products of the Alpha family of resources. I had been immersed for several days in Nicky and Sila Lea's The Marriage Book which is a wonderful tool for helping couples strengthen their relationship, and now I spent several evenings hitting the wall of marital breakdown with Cameron. It was a sobering juxtapositioning.

While I find it hard to identify what might be the target audience for this book, it is one that I would commend, not least because I think it entirely possible that Cameron Conant will possibly be a name that you will be hearing a lot more from in coming years. This is a man who is just finding his voice, and I hope that he does so with much grace because I am sure he will speak volumes of God's mercy to his generation -- as well as some of us who are a bit older.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read his book With or Without you. I came online looking to see if he had possibly wrote something else. He is an excellant writer and is so real that with his realism it shows what many people going through divorce are going through. No matter what the situation, no matter if the marriage was horrible divorce is a horrible challenge and this is the way that I see Cameron identifying it. It's odd but it was like sitting and talking to a friend as I read his book. That is why I looked for more books. I wanted to see what was happening and if this person had anything else to say. I sure will be watching out for his new book.