Saturday, November 13, 2021

Publisher Gift via NetGalley | Where the Light Fell: A Memoir


I received an invitation from the publisher to download a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I received an email from the publisher inviting me to read this memoir that stated it was similar to books such as Educated by Tara Westover, which I loved, so I decided to give it a try. I suppose 'loved' isn't entirely accurate, because her story is at times downright terrifying, but I think you understand what I mean.

I have never read Yancey's other work, and I confess I had never heard of him until I read this one. He is incredibly brave for sharing this with the world and I found I could not put the book down.

Yancey details his life, living with his mother and older brother, Marshall after the death of his father. His father died young from Polio, so it was just the three of them for a very long time. The elder Yancey died after he and his wife, southern fundamentalist Christians, decided to leave his health and life to God and reject the option of remaining in the Iron Lung. It would be a decision with catastrophic consequences for many years to come, beyond his death which of course in itself was catastrophic for the young family.

From then on Yancey, his brother, and mother moved constantly. She relied on support from their church and from teaching Bible studies whenever she could, wherever they were at. Being without means, the family often moved nearly every year in order to find affordable housing. The boys were constantly uprooted as their mother drove herself deeper and deeper into incredibly hostile religious beliefs, among them being that her sons were meant for some great divine purpose and she would do everything she could to ensure they stayed on that path to becoming missionaries.

Of course, this would not go well.

Despite both boys being gifted in various ways (musically, academically, etc), this was not enough for their mother. Or rather, those were not the gifts she wanted them to use, not the gifts she believed they were put on their earth to grow with.

As the boys get older, Marshall becomes increasingly adept at standing up to their mother who is constantly coming at them with the fire-and-brimstone sure to engulf the boys if they stray. Yet stray they do - yet their paths diverge greatly in how they do so.

When Marshall first went off to college, he attended Columbia Bible College. Yet his rebellion came quickly and when he transferred to a less-zealous/more-liberal school, their mother reacted as one would expect: cursing him by calling on God to paralyze him or cause him to go crazy. Yet Marshall managed to go on with his life as he wanted to, as his mother's religious convictions simply drove him further and further from the church and faith she clung to so tightly. It will surprise no one that Marshall became an atheist.

Philip would eventually follow his brother to Columbia Bible College, where he had his own rebellions. Yet, despite his mother's behavior, Philip was not driven away from the church. Instead, it caused him to delve deeper into faith, to explore the possibilities of faith and grace, instead of faith tied to the constant fear his mother had raged at them all their lives. Yancey details at length his constant questioning of the world around him in his time at the Bible college and it eventually led him down the path he has walked to reach this point, where he can look back on his life so far and find healing.

There is no denying that the boys had an abusive upbringing, given the two vastly different personalities their mother possessed. So proper and deeply spiritual in public, yet at home spiritual in such a violent way that can't really be called spiritual at all. Through this memoir though, it seems the author has come to terms with that childhood and young adulthood. It eventually delivered him to where he is now, blessed in having found true faith with grace and forgiveness.

Highly recommended.


  1. Interesting the two paths taken by the two boys who grew up under such an abusive situation. I would be inclined toward Marshall's path but if Philip's works for him then more power to him.

  2. I love when an author is able to get vulnerable and share their life with us. This sounds like a really tough but moving read.

    1. Yes! It was so incredibly personal and seeing his faith grow instead of wither was really beautiful despite all the hardships.

  3. What an interesting story. I found myself relating a bit.


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