Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace by Walter Wangerin

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A very rare Christian memoir that captures life’s chaos and its redemptive moments, without letting one element strangle the other.

🖋 🖋🖋🖋🖋 The writing is stylish without being overdone, intense without being melodramatic.

Published November 21, 2017 by Zondervan

ISBN: 9780310240051

Genre: Memoir, Christian Nonfiction

🔪 One or two chapters describe death or threats of violence.

💋 One or two stories reference sexual violence among inner-city families.

🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 Many chapters refer to people facing racist behavior, systemic poverty, and (occasionally) sexual abuse.

Across his career, pastor and writer Walter Wangerin (1944-2021) was many things. Many remember him best for his fantasy novel The Book of the Dun Cow or his religious nonfiction book Ragman and Other Cries of Faith. However, many would argue that the key to Wangerin’s work is that above all else, he was a pastor. Wounds are Where Light Enters collects a series of scenes from Wangerin’s life, most about his family or the years he spent pastoring an African-American church in Evansville, Indiana. Each story deals with a moment where lessons – about God, about the sins that hold people back, about redemption and growth – came in unexpected ways.

Wangerin has written about his life a variety of small books. Everlasting is the Past described his crisis of faith during seminary. Father & Son discussed his experience as a white father adopting an African-American son. Letters from the Land of Cancer dealt with Wangerin learning to live with an illness that ultimately killed him. This book isn’t tightly organized around a time period or subject like those books, but, like those books, it’s not afraid to discuss the darkness. Wangerin talks about spiritual lessons that he and others learned the hard way, and sometimes about the tragedy of friends who opted for bitterness rather than growth. Since Wangerin was a white pastor serving at an African-American inner city church in the 1970s, there are a few heartbreaking stories about poverty and bigotry. Each story is told with strong images, but not drawing out the details too much.

These intense little stories might have been depressing if they were just about darkness. Since Wangerin also makes the redemptive moments intense, it serves as a good pairing. Stories about racism that could have been brutal come across as tragic, a description of how far people can drift from truth. Stories about reconciled families that could have been schmaltzy come across as honest. Given how common it is to find Christian memoirs that talk all about the victories and never about the struggle, it’s refreshing to find a book that truly balances the light and dark.Wangerin went on release two books of poetry, but this appears to be his last book of original nonfiction material. A sobering yet hopeful collection, it’s a fitting capstone to his work and legacy.

Reviewed by G. Connor Salter

G. Connor Salter is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer and storyteller. His short story series “Tapes from the Crawlspace” is available to watch on YouTube, as are various pieces published by Tall Tale TV. He has published over 300 book reviews in publications like Aphotic Realm and The Waynesdale News. He will read anything once, but prefers thrillers, fantasy and horror.