Archives For Forgiveness


The Difficult, Life-Giving Path
A Feature Review of 

The Way of Letting Go:
One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness

Wilma Derksen

Paperback: Zondervan, 2017
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [  Kindle
Reviewed by Tamara Hill Murphy

I collect radical forgiveness stories.

As I continue to come to terms with my own experiences of trauma, I search out forgiveness mentors through stories – real life or mythologized. Through reading a wide array of stories, I’ve discovered what is probably logical: No act of forgiveness happens without, first, an incident of suffering. In this way, I guess you could also say that I collect stories of suffering.

It was this habit that led me to Wilma Derksen’s memoir of trauma and forgiveness, The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness, released in February. Derksen, now an international speaker on victimization and criminal justice issues, was on November 30, 1984, a mother and struggling journalist. When her 13-year-old daughter, Candace, called to ask for a ride home from school. Derksen was busy with a writing deadline, and asked her daughter to walk home from school instead.  After that phone conversation, she never spoke to her daughter again.

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Tomorrow (May 28) marks the anniversary of the death of acclaimed memoirist and poet, Maya Angelou

In remembrance of her life and work, we offer a series of brief videos that she recorded that introduce key themes in her work.

*** Books by Maya Angelou

Love Liberates:

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Can a Murderer Change His Ways?

A Feature Review of 

Writing My Wrongs:
Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison

Shaka Senghor

Hardcover: Convergent, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]


Reviewed by Deborah Bloom


Is it possible for a violent murderer to change their ways and become a productive member of society? That is the question at the heart of Shaka Senghor’s engrossing New York Times bestselling memoir.

We first meet Shaka (birth name Jay) as he is growing up in an middle -class neighborhood on Detroit’s East side in the 1980s. At first Shaka is a happy child, an honor-roll student who dreams of becoming a doctor. But his life quickly unravels when Shaka runs away from home after his mother becomes more abusive after his parents’ divorce.

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John Greenleaf Whittier

[ *** Read ERB editor Chris Smith’s recent essay: In Defense of Poetry *** ]

John Greenleaf WhittierMy heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;

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Forging Communities of Virtue

A review of
The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.

Reviewed by
Chris Smith.

The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.
Paperback: Samuel French, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

[ Watch an interview with the playwright about this play… ]

The Amish Project - Jessica DickeyI was born with a little bit of Amish blood in my ancestry and over the years, I have been fortunate to have had interactions with Amish communities in five different states. Although I have some significant theological differences with the Amish, I deeply respect their communities and think that modern Western culture can learn much from their way of life.  I was intrigued therefore to hear that Jessica Dickey had penned a new play – her debut as a playwright – that reflects on Amish culture and specifically the tragedy of the Nickel Mines shooting.  We typically don’t review plays here in The Englewood Review of Books, as plays are best reviewed in their performance, not simply in the reading of the text, but I did want to draw attention to this new work, The Amish Project.  Dickey’s play, a one-woman show that debuted off-Broadway in New York at the Rattlestick Theatre with Dickey herself in the acting role, offers a poignant exploration of the Nickel Mines shooting – through the eyes and ears of a cast of seven fictional characters.  Dickey’s writing has rich, poetic qualities throughout, spare and exquisite *. Continue Reading…


545442: Resurrection in May

A Review of

Resurrection in May: A Novel

By Lisa Samson
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger-Smith.

Lisa Samson belongs to the newer (but welcome!) generation of Christian authors who write honestly and believably about people’s struggles with faith in the real world. Samson often deals with big topics—alcoholism, psychosis, murders—and Resurrection in May is no different.  In fact, Samson deals with so many big issues (e.g., genocide, drug addiction, PTSD, the death penalty), that the book is almost overwhelming.  May,  a recent college graduate, who is partying away her young life, meets Claudius, an old farmer who has never lived away from his birth home, when he picks her up, drunk and abandoned, from the side of the road.  Claudius is able to see through May’s recent bad choices to who she really is—a bright, talented, but pampered child who makes very bad choices when it comes to romance.  They strike up an unlikely friendship—May moves into Claudius’s home while she waits to go on a mission trip Rwanda; there she plans to work in a small village, while also exercising her journalistic skills.  But May’s trip to Rwanda overlaps with the atrocious genocides of the 1990s, and May witnesses and experiences rage and hatred she can not find words to express.  After barely living through the genocide, May returns home scarred literally and figuratively. Unable to deal with anyone of her former acquaintance, she moves back into Claudius’s home.  There she stays for years, her world quickly becoming just the farm and those people who visit it.  After dealing for years with pathological fear, May is encouraged to reach beyond the farm by writing to a former friend who is awaiting execution on death row.  As the friendship grows through letters, both May and her friend wrestle with the issues of forgiveness and redemption.

Samson’s books are always enjoyable as well as challenging.  Resurrection in May is no exception, however, because of the over-crowding of big issues and the rather sudden shifts in time and perspective, it doesn’t stand up to her best work.  While Samson deals realistically with disappointed dreams and mental illness, Resurrection in May is brimming so full with interesting characters and potential sub-plots, one wonders why no one suggested making it into a series.


A sneak peek at one of the books to be featured in our
first print edition…  (Have you subscribed? )

Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven:
Community Practices for Making Peace
(Resources for Reconciliation Series)

by L. Gregory Jones and Célestin Musekura
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]


945991: Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

A Brief Review of

Permission to Speak Freely:
Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

By Anne Jackson.
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon (

Anne Jackson has gained quite a following at her blog over the last few years with her honest, insightful writing. She specializes in flinch-free truth-telling about herself, the church, and the broken world around her.

A couple of years ago, she lobbed a great question at her blog readers: What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in the church? Permission To Speak Freely captures the flavor of their responses.  Jackson got hundreds of answers, ranging from “I had an affair on my wife and I still think about the other woman” to “Even though I’m a staff member at my church, most of my deep and significant relationships are with people I met online” to “I was raped by a counselor… I thought he was a friend”.

The book is peppered with these confessions in the form of full-color pages that must have been fun for the graphic designer(s) tasked with properly honoring these anonymous words. But the bulk of the book is simple text featuring Jackson’s reflections and free-verse poetry on the subject of fear and confession. She lays out the mess of the struggles she’s had including the confusion in the wake of the sexual abuse she experienced as a teen, her addictions, her square peg experience as a church staffer and more in order to give readers, as a friend of hers called it, “the gift of going second”:

“Whenever somebody confesses something, and they’re the first to do it, its usually a pretty hard step to take. They don’t know how people will respond. They fear all the judgment and isolation. But they do it anyway.

“What happens on the other side of that confession is something beautiful. When you confess, there somebody on the other side of that confession who could very well be keeping a secret too. So when you go first, you’re opening up this amazing opportunity to trust. You’re saying, ‘I’m broken’. That trust carries so much power with it…”

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The excellent book

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy
Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, David Weaver-Zercher.
Paperback: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

has just been released in an affordable paperback edition.

Read our review of this book by David Neuhouser.

An excerpt from this book:


A Brief Review of

Saved by Her Enemy:
An Iraqi Woman’s
Journey from the Heart
of War to the
Heartland of America
Rafraf Barrak and Don Teague.
Hardback: Howard Books, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

This was a wonderful book to read; but in all honesty this was a difficult review to write – only because I find my mind scattering in a million directions – mostly having to do with war – the realities of war, the agendas of war, the effects and consequences of war, the stories and ways of war. Setting aside what you may think of the Iraq war – or even of war at all – this is a great story.  It is a true story and one that serves to help open our eyes to the realities of life for many in our world.  In our relatively safe and secure environment with an abundance of all we need, it’s important for us to get a taste (and probably even a big bite) of what living life means for others.

Thank you to Don Teague and the NBC News team stationed in Iraq who were willing to share this part of their lives with us – relating experiences that must often have been difficult and sometimes incredibly frightening.  And, thanks to Rafraf Barrak for her willingness to openly share her story with those she once considered “her enemy”.  Her honesty, openness and vulnerability brought great risk into her life.

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