A Brief Review of
Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father At 14,000 Feet.
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon.
My idea of an outdoor adventure is taking a leisurely stroll on a well-groomed path through a Chicagoland forest preserve, and frankly, even that’s a stretch for a life-long suburbanite like me. Our Wisconsin neighbors scornfully call us Illinois residents “flatlanders”. Mountain-climbing is not on my nature radar screen.
I’m not sure it was on author Richard Foster’s nature radar, either. But the invitation to climb one of Colorado’s 54 “fourteeners”, given him by his struggling 22-year old son Nathan offered the two men an opportunity to begin untangling their difficult relationship:
As I became a young adult, my father and I seemed to have no time or interest in getting to know each other. We had nothing in common…The strain of our unresolved arguments, and silence when words should have been spoken, had taken their toll. The distractions of life numbed my hurt, which over time hardened into apathy. The little I knew about my father I didn’t much like.
Frequently, the memoirs written by the children of famous folk are meant to deconstruct the faux public persona (think Mommy Dearest, the tell-all bio penned by the daughter of actress Joan Crawford or Crazy For God, Frank Schaeffer’s unflinching look at both his famous parents and the religious movement they helped to create). Though Wisdom Chaser seems at the start as though it might be headed in this direction, it is in fact a story of the decade-long process of building a functional, respectful relationship between a son dogged by inadequacy, addiction, and a sour relationship with God and his famous dad.
We get to know Richard Foster, the author of essential spiritual formation titles including Celebration of Discipline and Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home, through the eyes of his son. But Wisdom Chaser is really a story about Nathan’s messy twenties. He offers snapshots showing us how he began to figure out who is and what he is meant to do with his life, as well as describing his battles with addiction. Nathan Foster’s writing is neither sensationalized nor self-indulgent, and effectively blends the physical descriptions of these shared father-son assaults on some of Colorado’s fourteeners with his hard-fought journey toward a reconciled relationship with his dad, God, and himself. An afterward by Richard Foster offers a loving, respectful summary of his part of their story.
The book reads like a series of blog entries, going from one episode to the next. I found myself wishing for a bit more flow to the whole. But the pieces of the story do form a compelling whole that would offer encouragement to parents of prodigal young adults and twenty-somethings navigating the rocky, unforgiving terrain of adulthood.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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