The most recent book I received from Bethany House Publishers as part of their blogger review program is called Relentless Pursuit by Ken Gire. It jumped out to me from among the titles available because of its subtitle: God’s love of outsiders, including the outsider in all of us. Especially since our move, but really always, I have struggled with feeling like I have a niche, and so I was interested in reading this author’s take on how to deal with those feelings of being an “other.”
I have to say, Bethany House hits the nail on the head with covers. I loved what I found when I opened the mailer it came in and couldn’t wait to dive in!
The prologue intrigued me, as it hinted at the author’s own struggles with feeling left out and different, but the first chapter found my eyes glazing over a bit as he delved into a somewhat literary and academic analysis of the poem “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. I’m all about some literary analysis and poetry, but it was not what I expected from this book, nor did it seem to fit the bill of what I was looking for.
However, after that, the book picked up for me. I normally skim over the study questions at the end of chapters in Christian lifestyle books, but the ones in Relentless Pursuit were well-written and particularly relevant to the preceding chapter, so I found myself underlining many of them for further contemplation. And the literary and philosophical references in the rest of the book were wonderful, introducing me to some authors I had never heard of but now want to explore and providing me with some beautifully thought-out definitions for a life of faith.
Though I was into the premise of the book, I found the execution to be a bit pat. I wanted either deeper exploration of the biblical nature of God’s love for the outsider or a more nuanced depiction of the author’s life story (more of a memoir). Instead, I found both of these elements lacking: the “God stuff” was mostly vague and not detailed, and the personal recollections were scattered and didn’t really show me how the author had come to believe so deeply as he does. I also struggled with the precise definition of “outside.” It felt like the term was used throughout the book to mean one of several different things, and “outsider” was applied to both people literally outside of some group or another AND those of us who just feel like outsiders. All of the above are valid, of course, but I wanted a more concise use of the term. All in all, though, if I hadn’t been enjoying the book for the most part, I wouldn’t have cared that these bits felt shallow.
Throughout the book, I gleaned bits of wisdom and particularly apt turns of phrase that I’m looking forward to considering as I continue my walk of faith. But I unfortunately don’t feel any more convinced of God’s love for the outsider than I did before reading Relentless Pursuit, and this is coming from someone who already knows and believes that to be true. It seems like this book was written more for those who are “inside” but struggle with feeling like they’re not accepted. I can’t imagine what takeaway someone of another faith might have from this book, and that seems to betray its purpose. I’d share this book only in a setting where there could be open discussion about it, or with someone else like me who enjoys adding new thoughts to their repertoire.