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Whenhe was sixteen years old, Ian Morgan Cron was told about his father’sclandestine work with the CIA. Thisastonishing revelation, coupled with his father’s dark struggles with chronicalcoholism and depression, upended the world of a boy struggling to become aman. Decades later, as he faces his ownpersonal demons, Ian realizes the only way to find peace is to voyage backthrough a painful childhood marked by extremes—privilege and poverty, violenceand tenderness, truth and deceit—that he’s spent years trying to escape.
Inthis surprisingly funny and forgiving memoir, Ian reminds us that no matter howdifferent the pieces may be, in the end we are all cut from the same cloth,stitched by faith into an exquisite quilt of grace.
“Simultaneously redemptive and consoling with bright moments of humor . . . this story is chock-full of sacredness and hope. Cron is one of only a few spirituality authors who could articulate these themes as poignantly.”
“Ian Cron writes with astonishing energy and freshness; his metaphors stick fast in the imagination. This is neither a simple memoir of hurt endured, nor a tidy story of reconciliation and resolution. It is—rather like Augustine’s Confessions—a testimony to the unfinished business of grace.”
DR. ROWAN WILLIAMS, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Ian Cron has the gift of making his human journey a parable for all of our journeys. Read this profound book and be well fed, and freed.”
FR. RICHARD ROHR, O.F.M., author of Everything Belongs
“Ian Morgan Cron is a brilliant writer. This is the kind of book that you don’t just read. It reads you.”
MARK BATTERSON, author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day
An Episcopal priest's journey back to God and grace.
An alcoholic father who works for the CIA, an English nanny in powder-blue cat-eye glasses and an elegant but distracted mother are the three major influences that Cron (Chasing Francis, 2006) brings to life with much tongue-in-cheek humor (and pain) in a fast-paced narrative that "dances on the hyphen between memoir and autobiographical fiction." Told from a Christian perspective, the book does not directly proselytize; instead, it is the story of Cron's own faith walk and relationship with his father—an intriguing and somewhat sympathetic character when he was not punching his son or passed out on the floor. By the time the author was born, his father's shadowy career as a CIA agent and family's wealthy life in the UK had devolved into the horrors of alcoholism, desperate financial straits and social ostracism in Connecticut. From a good Catholic child who held "communion" with squirrels and longed for paternal love, Cron, not surprisingly, became a pot-smoking teenager and alcoholic who rejected his faith. Though his similes are a bit excessive (some work beautifully while others don't), the author's English major shines through with an interesting, well-written plot of pain and redemption. If the CIA element were removed, this could be the account of many post–World War II suburban children struggling to come to terms with emotionally distant fathers. Cron's realism and lack of bitterness are a refreshing blend.
A powerful story of faith and forgiveness.
Iwas rummaging around for a pen in my mother's apartment when I found a grainy black-and-white photo stuck to the back of a drawer in her desk. It was taken of me as a toddler at the beach near our home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Stamped on the white, decoratively scalloped border is the year, 1962. That year, riots broke out when African-American student Phillip Meredith tried to enroll at the University of Mississippi, two members of the high-wire circus act the Flying Wallendas were killed when their seven-person pyramid collapsed during a performance in Detroit, and the United States and the Soviet Union came within a cat's whisker of incinerating each other when our military discovered that the Soviets had placed nuclear missiles ninety miles off the coast of Florida in Cuba. It was also the year in which an unsuspecting black bear named Yogi was volunteered by the air force to participate in an escape capsule test. He was ejected from a supersonic aircraft flying at 870 mph at an altitude of thirty-five thousand feet, landing safely on the earth seven minutes and forty-nine seconds later.
It was a stressful year for everybody.
The photo of me at the beach suggests that young children are more conscious of what's happening in their environment than developmental psychologists once believed. I knew that civilization was teetering on the precipice of annihilation, and I was ready.
I am sitting in a lifeboat.
The picture was taken with my mother's camera, a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, a perfect cube of black plastic with a gray knob on the side that you wound to advance the film. To take a picture, you had to hunch over the camera, looking at your subject through a small square viewfinder. The owner's manual claimed the lens could take sharp pictures from "5 feet to infinity." That's a whole lot of camera for five dollars and fifty cents. Later, when my mother bought a new camera, the Brownie ended up in my toy chest. The knob made an awful grinding noise when I turned it because of the grit and sand lodged in the gears of the film spool. For a year it went with me everywhere.
My mother told me that if I removed the back of the camera and shook it hard enough, the countless memories hiding inside might tumble out. I gave it all I had, but not even one fell out. I would pay much more than five dollars and fifty cents to hold that Brownie in my hands again today.
So here I am in the photo, a towheaded two-year-old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat, waving and laughing at the photographer, whose identity is a mystery to me even now. Behind me, classic wood motorboats with elegant lines bob in the waves. I imagine men sauntering by offcamera in Ray-Bans and wearing short, skintight bathing suits only a Canadian could love.
When I first discovered the picture in my mother's desk, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. He was beckoning me to get into the boat.
"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to." That's what John Edward Pearce said. But what if your childhood was a train wreck? What if your memories of home are more akin to The Shining than The Waltons? It doesn't matter. Home is not just a place; it's a knowing in the soul, a vague premonition of a far-off country that we know exists but haven't seen yet. Home is where we start, and whether we like it or not, our life is a race against time to come to terms with what it was or wasn't. The boy was calling me to join him on a voyage through the harrowing straits of memory. He was gambling that if we survived the passage, we might discover an ocean where the past would become the wind at our back rather than a driving gale to the nose of our boat. This book is the record of that expedition.
By now, the attentive reader is wondering what I mean when I say this book is "a memoir of sorts." I set out to write a conventional memoir, but after weeks of writing I discovered a vexing paradox: no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't tell the whole truth about my childhood by rigidly sticking to the facts. John Irving describes the problem in his memoir, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed. "This is a memoir," he writes, "but please understand that (to any writer with a good imagination) all memoirs are false . . . we can always imagine a better detail than the one we can remember. The correct detail is rarely, exactly, what happened, or what should have."
This work dances on the hyphen between memoir and autobiographical fiction. Many of the stories in this book are more than forty years old. They are told as "through a glass, darkly." They include approximations of conversations that actually occurred or ones I believe could have reasonably taken place, given my knowledge of the people and the events at the time.
In places I have conflated stories. I have compressed timelines. I borrowed from the memories and experiences of my siblings. I changed the names of people who did not sign up to be in my book. (For example, my childhood dog's real name was Tigger, but I changed it to Waldo. He was very private.)
Some accounts are based on stories I've heard family members tell, even though none of us can agree on the details. These differences in opinion about what happened to whom nearly lead to bloodshed when family stories are recounted at holiday meals.
Memoirists work with bones. Like paleontologists, we dig up enough of them to make intelligent guesses about what a creature looked like a million years ago. But here and there a femur or rib is missing, so by faith, with imagination, we fill in those gaps with details we believe are consistent with the nature and character of our upbringing.
So what's really true in this account of my life, you ask? If while reading you become uncertain about where the line between fact and fiction lies in my history, then welcome to my childhood. I felt that same uncertainty as a kid growing up, and even now as I try to relay it to you.
If you have a low tolerance for ambiguity, and these earnest attempts at transparency make you wonder if I'm to be trusted, then know that this book is true, either in fact or in essence, and most of the time—both.
This is a record of my life as I remember it—but more importantly, as I felt it.
It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.
Afriend of Wild Bill Donovan's recruited me to work for the Company after the war," my father whispered. I pulled my chair closer to the side of the grand four-poster bed where my father lay. As a boy, I'd hidden a hundred times under that imposing mahogany antique during games of hideand- seek. Six weeks of intense radiation therapy on my father's face and throat had seared his vocal cords. The voice that during my childhood could make me cringe in fear was now thin and reedy. Tabs of white, pasty spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth, and he winced when he swallowed. A cup of ice chips sat on his bedside table, surrounded by a forest of amber-colored prescription bottles in a variety of sizes.
My fiancée, Anne, sat frozen in a Queen Anne armchair at the end of the bed, listening, her eyes darting back and forth between my father and me. She knew he never spoke with his children—or even with his wife, for that matter—about his work with the CIA. I had known since I was a teenager that he'd worked on and off in the clandestine intelligence services, but we were forbidden to talk about it. The Cron clan lived by the don't ask, don't tell rule long before the government employed the phrase to describe its policy toward gays and lesbians in the military. Our version was simple: don't ask dad about his work, past or present, and whatever you do, don't tell anyone about his drinking.
"My work at a motion-picture company gave your mother and me access to all the big society events in London," my father continued. "We were invited to parties at embassies where we rubbed elbows with foreign leaders, military brass, and ambassadors. We became good friends with people close to the royal family as well. I would listen to conversations and report back to the London station."
"Did Mom know?" I asked.
"Not until much later." "How is that possible?"
"Wives in the fifties didn't ask questions," he said, smiling faintly.
I imagined my mother sitting in the living room of our home in London, addressing invitations to a garden party while my father plotted coups in the study. Not exactly Ozzie and Harriet. "So all you did was listen in on important people's conversations and report back?" I asked.
My father arched one eyebrow and studied me as though he were performing an X-ray on my motive for asking the question. This was his trademark facial expression. When it was soft and accompanied by an impish grin, it was his way of expressing incredulity. If it was dark and seemed to be drilling a hole in your forehead, it meant he was trying to decide if you were toying with him. I think in this case, he wanted to know if my question was sardonic or just naive. It was definitely the latter. "It was the Cold War. We were fighting to keep our country safe," he said.
"What does that mean exactly?"
He shrugged. "In the fifties and sixties, the Agency wasn't the monolithic bureaucracy it is today. We didn't have the kinds of constraints people in the field have now. In the early days we were more . . ." He paused and smiled. "More independent." As crazy as the story sounded, I knew my father was telling the truth, or at least his version of it. My father was describing our family's Camelot years. My two older brothers and older sister remembered those halcyon days much better than I did. They spoke with wistful reverence of the days when my father was managing director of Screen Gems, the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures in the 1950s, in the United Kingdom and Europe, when they attended the finest private schools in London, when our home was filled with cooks, maids, and nannies, when the sky was blue and cloudless as far as the eye could see. My boyhood was filled with the retelling of legendary stories from that era—like the night Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner spontaneously performed their famous sketch "The Two- Thousand-Year-Old Man" at a party in the living room of our home on Eaton Place, or the time Art Buchwald entertained a Thanksgiving party by standing on a chair and taking off his clothes to the song "The Stripper." There were tales of our nextdoor neighbor, the author James Jones, meandering over to our house in his dressing gown to sit in our kitchen and have coffee with my mother after he had finished writing for the day. On the title page of his masterpiece From Here to Eternity, he scrawled a personal note to my father beginning with the words, "To Jack, last of the great big spenders."
If you delved headfirst into the fifty-five-gallon cardboard moving barrel that stood next to the half-round eyebrow window vent in our attic, or if you were strong enough to heave open the big hidden drawer in the bottom of the lift-top blanket chest in the downstairs hall, you would find a treasure trove of pictures of my parents posing with celebrities—as well as glossy blackand- whites of my father with men my mother swears she never met. But it was the big green steamer trunk with brass rivets along its seams that contained the really cool stuff. It bore a Cunard Lines first-class sticker on its side, a reminder of a journey made between New York and London on the Queen Mary. Many of the photos were yellow, their corners crimped, leaving craggy, white fault lines that couldn't be repaired. The photos were filled with dashing men in black tie and women in shimmering satin evening gowns, sitting at round tables at Sardi's or 21 in New York or Maxim's in Paris. The tables were covered with white tablecloths with sharp pleats, strewn with champagne flutes and Scotch tumblers, packs of Chesterfields, and small, beaded cocktail purses with gold chains.
There were shots of my parents mugging gaily for the camera with stars like William Holden, Judy Garland, Donna Reed, Roger Moore, and Terry-Thomas. They all looked so sophisticated and elegant, but they were still willing to scrunch up like giddy kids on prom night so no one would be left out of the picture. There were photos of our home on Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge, snapshots taken of my parents on business trips to out-of-the-way European cities—business trips that my mother said she knew at the time had nothing to do with my father's job at Screen Gems—or of my sister being pushed by a uniformed nanny in a fancy pram with a blue canvas sun canopy and oversized white rubber wheels with wire spokes. None of these photographs ever made it into well-organized photo albums, the tobacco-colored leather ones with the year the pictures were taken embossed on the bindings. Nor were they placed into sterling-silver frames and displayed on coffee tables or mantels, as happy reminiscences to be shared with guests. Shortly after I was born, our boom years went bust. My father's descent into the madness of alcoholism made riding a yo-yo look easy. One minute we were wealthy, the next we were broke, and years later we were reasonably comfortable again. When people ask about my childhood, I say it's shaped like a J. There were the really high years, the really low years, and finally, in the words of the prophet Joel, the years when God restored to us what the locusts had eaten—or at least some of what they'd eaten. But for all of my years growing up, I was haunted by this vague feeling that we must have committed some terrible offense against the gods to have such a charmed life taken away from us. The pictures from those glamour years were orphaned souvenirs from a previous life, proof that once upon a time the Fates really did smile on us.
My father was handsome and always impeccably dressed. I still have a picture of him taken by the famous Bruno of Hollywood, the photo grapher who took the headshots of A-list actors in those days. My father looked like a movie star himself. He was a man's man, hard as Errol Flynn and charming as Cary Grant.
Today, we'd say he was a cross between Daniel Craig and George Clooney. He wasn't tall, maybe 5'7", but he was barrel-chested, with jet-black hair, curly at the edges, and swarthy skin. My father was a force of nature. When he made an entrance into a crowded room, the balance of power shifted. Men would feel it first and look fleetingly in his direction, then feign disinterest before returning to conversation with women who couldn't take their eyes off him. My father couldn't walk through a door without colonizing the space.
The sad thing about the Bruno of Hollywood picture is that my father looks so happy, so hopeful, unaware that he was speeding into an ice storm with no chains on his tires. Every time I see that photo I'm reminded that we're all one decision away from disaster.
"I was trained to drink milk and then swish whiskey around my mouth before we went out for the night," my father continued.
"They said the milk would make the smell of the Scotch stick to my breath."
"What was the point?" I asked.
"The Agency wanted people to think of me as the harmless, shallow American who drank too much. That way people wouldn't be as careful about what they said around me." He looked away. "One day I became the person I was pretending to be." My heart was pounding. There was something I'd waited my entire life to hear him say, words that I was convinced could change everything, past, present, and future.
I could tell he knew what I was hoping for when his faced darkened. He fixed me with a gelid gaze. "That's what happened," he said, folding his arms across his chest.
I took a deep breath and forced a steady stream of air through pursed lips. It made the sensation of drowning go away. "Okay," I said.
My father picked up the copy of the National Review that had been lying facedown on his chest and resumed reading. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, but of the more intellectual school of thought. He would have considered Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity shrill and uncultured, nothing more than bad theater. He was a Richard John Neuhaus or Bill Buckley man. Even in the years when his alcoholism and depression were at their worst, stacks of history books, biographies, newspapers, and magazines would surround his chair. We could always tell when he was reading the New York Times. We'd hear him throw the paper to the floor and yell, "Communist sympathizers!"
I once asked him why he insisted on reading something that made him so angry. He winked and said, "Always know what your enemy is doing."
When he picked up his magazine and resumed reading, I knew that my audience with the grand patriarch was over. He had made his deathbed mea culpa. Even frail and dying, he was imperious.
Anne and I left the room and paused on the other side of the door.
"Wow," she mouthed.
I shook my head. "That was an explanation. I was hoping for an apology."
Anne took my hand. "It was as close to an apology as he could get," she replied.
We walked into the living room. Nat King Cole's perfect voice warbled on the stereo. He was singing his classic song "Unforgettable," only the stereo made it sound like he had recorded it underwater. My parents had bought their eighttrack stereo system in 1975, and despite my pleas, they refused to upgrade to a CD player. People from Greenwich, Connecticut, are frugal in an odd sort of way. My mother wouldn't dream of throwing away old string, used Christmas wrapping paper, or rubber bands, but when I was in high school, she and my father would spend a small fortune staying at the Breakers in Palm Beach or shooting sporting clays at Casa del Campo in the Dominican Republic for a few weeks every January. They were members of a tribe who thought the word winter was a verb.
"Ian," my father called, beckoning me back to his room.
I turned to Anne. "Go be with Mom. I'll be right there," I said.
I opened the door and stuck my head into the room. My father was still sitting up, leaning back against a mound of down pillows.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Nothing's perfect, son," he said, fanning the pages of his magazine, pretending to look for an article he had started but never finished.
I squinted at him. Maybe I thought narrowing my visual field might provide the clarity I needed to decode this cryptic aside. It didn't. That's all you have to say? Couldn't you admit you were a drunk who wrecked my childhood? Couldn't you ask my forgiveness?
I closed the door and leaned against it. This was a man who made fortunes and squandered them, a man who possessed the insouciant charm of Peter O'Toole and the menacing aura of Humphrey Bogart. He could slice you into ribbons with a lacerating vocabulary or make you laugh so hard you had to leave the room so you wouldn't pass out from oxygen deprivation. He kept his life compartmentalized and in the shadows, no one knowing who he really was or what he actually did. There were so many lies, half-truths, and missing pieces of information about him that didn't add up. But just when you thought everything he ever said about himself might be symptomatic of psychosis, some amazing claim he'd made would be verified by a reputable source, making you wonder if it was you who was completely crazy. Trying to crack the code of my father's history was enough to give you vertigo. Then there were the other memories. A nine-year-old waiting in a car to leave for a fishing trip until he was told that it was called off because of his father's coming down with "the flu," a condition suspiciously similar to a paralyzing hangover. The nights restaurant owners would call and ask me to collect him because he was too drunk to drive. The serrating silences that cried out to be filled with words only fathers can give their boys.
"‘Nothing's perfect'? What on earth is that supposed to mean?" I muttered to no one in particular.
Six weeks later my father was dead.
What can I say that the Archbishop of Canterbury or Fr. Richard Rohr have not already said better? "This is neither a simple memoir of hurt endured, nor a tidy story of reconciliation and resolution. It is - rather like Augustine's Confessions - a testimony to the unfinished business of grace." - The Archbishop of Canterbury
"Ian Cron has the gift of making his human journey a parable for all of our journeys. Read this profound book and be well fed, and freed." - Fr. Richard Rohr
I am an ordinary guy who, like Ian Cron, has found myself to be "out of true" at times. The author borrows this term from the guy at Gene's bicycle shop in Greenwich, CT. "When the tire rim is bent or one of its spokes is missing or damaged, the wheel no longer spins straight, or true. It goes cockeyed and wobbly, and if it's bad enough, riding on it becomes impossible." The definition served as an epiphany of sorts for young Ian, "That was it. I felt out of true." This book is a fascinating and gritty account of one man's journey toward Truth.
Although the direct circumstances of our upbringing could not be more different, the emotional journey, the experiences, the relationships (both familial and social) resonated very closely with me page after page. As a master communicator and skillful wordsmith, Mr. Cron gives voice to that which is ineffable to so many others. The courage that is demonstrated in sharing his own experiences so transparently emboldens the reader to look deeply into the mirror and dare to see a story waiting to be told.
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Posted September 13, 2011
Jesus, my father, the CIA and me by Ian Morgan Cron was a great read. It's an autobiography of a man as he goes from child to adult and all that comes in between.
Cron gives the details of his life in such a vivid way. He makes you feel as if you were there as you read through the pages of this novel. It's a novel full of heartache, but also of finding God through it all. This book isn't super "religious" or in your face, but just full of truth and sincerity.
I recommend reading this book, I think any human can find something in it that relates to their own personal life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com
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Posted September 7, 2011
I read Ian's book "Chasing Francis" and have recommended to many friends and most of all to many of my colleagues in vocational ministry who are either burned out or disenfranchised. So, Ian's memoir had special interest to me, so that it provided a backdrop to his life and development on the journey of life. Well, I wasn't disappointed. Ian has really developed into a great writer. His creative writing is laugh out loud funny, but also has tremendous clarity of truth. I can't wait till his next work. He is now one of those trusted authors, that anything he writes is worth supporting with my dollars. Keep us the good work Ian!
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Posted May 7, 2011
I wonder at the nightmare that is too many childhoods-parents victimized by addiction and children victimized by parents.
The author admits to some fictionalization only because of the inaccuracy of memory. But this story comes from truth. Ian comes from a family who live in the upper strata of what passes for class in America. They go through poverty and then back to prosperity. His father belongs to the CIA and often disappears without explanation. He rubs shoulders with the president and celebrities. Ian knows this only by old photos that his mother won't explain and later by a visit from a high-ranking member.
The misery inflicted on him by his alcoholic father leaves him shattered. He follows his father into alcoholism and sadly begins to resemble him This story is tragic and hilarious. Some of the scenes he paints cause laughter combustion when you least expect it.
Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me tells a story of redemption for a man who, though a devout child, at one point, compared the Catholic cross with the Protestant cross. Catholic crosses always carry the image of Jesus. Protestant crosses are bare because Jesus has ascended and isn't there any longer. But Ian believed he knew differently. God would not have let a small boy go through his experiences. The cross is empty because Jesus never hung there. When Ian once again acknowledged God, the Lord did not immediately remove the alcoholism and pain. Ian must struggle to admit he even has a problem.
This poignant story has only one problem. It comes to a neat ending-and then it continues. I felt the author should have knit the last three chapters in to the story sooner.
The charming writing voice entertains you, moves you, and draws you in. A good read.
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Posted March 30, 2014
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Posted August 31, 2013
Posted April 16, 2012
Cron’s story is what I would consider creative non-fiction. The story of Cron’s life unfolds in snippets of stories from his childhood, and catalogs his reactions both then, and now. The story is one of family, struggle, growth, and a slow acceptance of God and his role in our lives. Cron shares the shocking revelation his mother shares with him at age 16: that his father works for the CIA. The rest of the tale unfolds in present reflection, emotional flashbacks, and the real, raw emotion of a child growing up with an alcoholic father, a slightly dysfunctional family, and a constant struggle between loving and hating God.
If I were to some up this book in just one word, it would simply be “good.” There were several things that I loved, and a couple that I really, really didn’t. Unfortunately, one of the particularly displeasing things occurred very heavily in the beginning of the book, which made it difficult to get into. In the first 1/4-1/3 of the book, Cron uses an incessant amount of pop-culture references. I can appreciate a reference here or there, but there were so many littered throughout the story that it became distracting. This did taper off some as the story progressed, but it definitely took away from the beginning.
One of the aspects that I loved about this book is Cron’s ability to really bring a reader in to the pain that he feels throughout the story. The emotions he felt, the thoughts in his mind, the atmosphere of a room, the tone of a conversation- he draws the reader in with beautiful descriptions, vivid language, and a personable tone until you literally feel the pain and fear along with him.
Lighter moments, such as arriving early to be an altar boy will simultaneously make you shake with laughter and shudder in fear. Darker moments, especially in confrontations with his father, literally made me pull the covers up closer around my shoulders, hiding from a man in someone else’s house 30 years ago.
As a general rule, I tend to gravitate towards books like Cron’s. I love stories of struggle, not because the person had to endure that struggle, but because of the bravery required to share a story like that. If you, too, enjoy a deeply personal, increasingly intense, and reassuring tale of struggle, love, loss, and growing both in age, experience, and faith, then I would definitely pick up a copy of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me.
Posted April 6, 2012
this book is a fond look back to a catholic childhood and how fatih can carry us though lifes challenges, dissapointments, and losses. good for anyone who feels cheated out by a short straw life may have given them. .... good fast read......2manWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2011
This book . "is a record of my life as I remember it - but more importantly, as I felt it." is how Ian himself describes his memoir. of sorts.
Somehow, Ian is able to not just look back at his life as a little boy and teenager, but rather he becomes the boy/teenager again, viewing his life through their eyes.
He grows up with what later turns out to be lies or at best half-truths. The mantra of his family is 'don't ask (specifically about his dad's work) and absolutely don't tell (about his dad's drinking)'.
At 16 year's of age, Ian learns that the innuendoes his father dropped from time to time are true and he indeed works for the Agency since before his birth. It leaves him bewildered since he sees his father as a uncommitted, untrustworthy alcoholic who is not able to take care of his family. How on earth could he be useful to the Agency?
This double life his father leads, the personality he plays during his assignments, catches up with him when he becomes the one he pretends to be. A harmless, shallow American who drinks too much. Later in life Ian learns more about the mental background of his father giving him a deeper understanding of who he really was and how that affected the family.
His mother, who didn't sign up for this type of life, but stuck with it till her husband passed away, is a strong woman who picks up the slack when her husband lets them all down. However, motherhood doesn't come naturally to her and Ian receives more love and compassion from his nanny.
As a young boy Ian experiences God at his first Holy Communion, impacting his life profoundly, even tough he later gets angry at God for not answering his prayers.
Ungrounded and convinced he is not lovable, he mostly parties his way through high school and college. But Jesus stoops down to him and at long last he reaches a measure of peace regarding his faith from which he continues to grow and later becomes a priest.
Since the CIA is mentioned in the title prominently, I expected to read more about the Agency. I felt disappointed that this was not the case.
Even though Ian touches many tough life issues, he manages to write his memoir with a lightheartedness and humor that entertains and gripes you from the start. Often times, you don't know if you should laugh or really should cry. It is an amazing read that keeps you captivated till the last page!
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted August 2, 2011
Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts tells the story of the author and of his strained relationship--if relationship it can be called--with his father. From the start Cron grabs the readers attention with pithy anecdotes and personal story that break up the main biographical arc of the narrative. The book moves through the life of the author in a number of stages, and even without their being separated and divided out by the author, there is a clear line or demarcation: life before first communion, first communion to first drink, from drinking to Christ, and from Christ to depression and back to Christ.
The story is well written and structured each story within pulling the reader in and pushing the story arc forward. The story is in large part about the author's trouble childhood and his seeking after his own father's approval yet the story is not told in such a fashion that having had a happy and prosperous childhood one would feel left out. The story itself is as such universal like good Greek drama without being pedantic. There is a savor of humanity that can be found only in such tragedy and it is here that the book becomes like salt, seasoning and preserving.
Moreover the narrative is reassuring to any honest reader who will see in the author's failings a flavor of their own, if only stronger; as the author finds his own redemption at the feet of Christ so then can any who would follow his life-line to its end.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted August 1, 2011
I really wanted to like the book Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts but I just could not get over the feeling that Mr. Cron was always blaming his father's drinking for his problems. I know that drinking is a problem in families and leaves deep scars that are hard to overcome. He concentrated so much on his father that he left out Jesus in most of the book. I really believe that the title should have been Me, My Father, the CIA, and Jesus. Because that is the order in which I felt he concentrated his time and writing.
I felt that he did tell a great story but he even stated at the beginning of the book that "This work dances on the hyphen between memoir and autobiographical fiction." (pg. 4) With that being said, I never really knew whether or not to believe the details that he told. Where they fact, skewed facts, or just ficiton? I love autobiographical accounts of overcoming the odds but I just could never believe whole heartedly what was being said.
I did not exactly dislike the book but I could not really recommend the book by giving it five stars. I would also like to say that I do not think that the book is entirely fiction but I would like to know what was actually fact. I know that he was telling a story from "forty year old memories" but I just could not get into the stories that he told. I was expecting more information about how his father was involved in the CIA and the adventures around his father's work. I was sadly disappointed.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.
Posted July 16, 2011
A memoir that aims make us realize that there could be greatness even in the direst of lives. Having survived abuse from an alcoholic father who happens to be in CIA, and eventually falling into his own alcoholic problems, Ian Cron tells us the tale of his struggles and subsequent discovery of grace through Christian influences around him.
Ian's story is interesting, sometimes a little disturbing with a touch of humor to balance the scales. His story will in some ways remind us of our own bouts with life and the emotions we felt through it all. Ian Cron writes in such a way that seems to weave everything together to make perfect sense. It is full of heart and it is full of life. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
I got an ARC of this book through Booksneeze.
Posted July 15, 2011
Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me by Ian Cron.A memoir of sorts is an autobiography of Ian's life consisting of surviving childhood with an abusive and alcoholic father, who happens to be in the CIA, dealing with his own alcoholic tendencies and finding Jesus in the process. This book reveals that overcoming obstacles that may seem impossible can happen. Faith and positive influence from Nanny, Christian friends and mentors seem to play an important role in Ian's life.
This book captivates me. Never once did I find myself bored. A memorable story whether true or fiction for me is leaving me wanting to know more, and Ian did just that. The author inspires others to greatness. This book would be great for parents, especially those who may not have had the best relationship with their parents. It shows that a relationship gone wrong in the past does not make you into who you are today. Words can't describe how much I enjoyed reading this book. Great summer read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and
Posted July 15, 2011
Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me is one of those books to linger over. Quotable moments where I found myself nodding in agreement and then momentarily lost in thought. You know, remembering the good . days when we were young and life seemed full of possibilities and sunny summer skies ... those moments in life before freedom and hope is trampled by reality. Growing up free is difficult when one's father is an alcoholic. The whole world slowly becomes amber-colored and dark much like the familiar long neck bottle or the measured shot of liquid in the clear drinking glass. His story is a poignant journey of drama, tears, faith and reflection, laughter and finally truth and grace. There was much work to be done on the way.
Perhaps you'll find yourself praying that his father will be there for him, tell him that he loves him before it is too late. It is a theme that travels throughout the memoir. There are dark and difficult parts to his story, and humor to see it through. His anger helped me remember my own. His storytelling will do that. The anecdotes are seamlessly incorporated, the writing crystal clear, the metaphors spot on. The ending brings the reader full circle. Mr. Cron is a writers' writer ... an author to emulate. This is a book to be savored.
Mini-Writers Workshop - Author Ian Morgan Cron uses all of the best fiction techniques to write his memoir: capturing his life's turning points to build the characters and produce tension, conflict, pacing, and crisp description. He understand how to use imagery to paint his pictures, he is a master at creating metaphors. "Some writers use metaphors and similes," said Leonard Bishop*, "as naturally as a kitten licks his paw." A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily describes one thing is used to describe another (i.e. the assignment was a breeze, heart of gold).
*Leonard Bishop was a noted author, best-selling novelist, writing teacher, and newspaper columnist. Listed in the Who's Who of American Authors, Mr Bishop was also recognized as one of the seven top writing teachers in the United States. He wrote the classic Dare to Be a Great Writer.
Posted July 11, 2011
Jesus and the CIA (as I call it for short) is one of the all-around best books I've read in a while. Ian is a natural storyteller, and he reflects on his own life such that I was caught up in his journey, swept along with him through the tumult of his life.
That's saying something, because Ian Cron has lived a life most of us couldn't imagine. It's a credit to his skill as a writer that I felt so drawn to him.
Ian (I'm going to use his first name in this review because - having read his book - I feel like that's what he'd want me to do.) opens his book at his father's death-bed. We learn quickly that Ian's dad was an alcoholic and that his relationship with Ian was bad.
So begins Ian's exploration of his past, his story. He was born into a family who lived large, movie-star-esque lives. His dad, it turns out, worked on-and-off for the CIA, but also worked with some of the biggest movie stars of the day. Their lives were glamorous, until his drinking destroyed it all.
Around the time Ian's family lost everything, Ian found God through his first communion at his family's Catholic church. This section of the book was powerful, especially as Ian described the sacred moment of receiving for the first time the sacred meal.
The rest of the book is Ian's journey towards peace. It's not an easy journey by any means. Ian describes himself as feeling 'out of true' - displaced and disoriented in a world with no constants. He falls into all the typical struggles of boyhood and adolescence, exacerbated by his erratic, abusive father and a genetic tendency towards alcoholism.
Despite Because of those dark times, Ian's story is truly, simply a wonderful story. His writing is superb - his use of imagery is powerful, profound and provocative without feeling cheesy or forced. He connected me with his experiences even when I hadn't shared something similar. Ian's journey towards God hasn't looked much like mine at all. But even still, Ian drew me deep into his experience with God. And that is the magic of this book.
Above all, Ian's journey is very human. He's far from perfect - just like me, and his honest exploration of his own faults is both encouraging and challenging.
As Ian leads us through his life, we slowly discover that his journey is ours, too. The insecurities he faces are ours. The adventures he discovers await us, too. That's ultimately what makes it such a successful memoire. Reading this book is an introspective, healing healing exercise. The unlikely path Ian takes towards reconciliation drew me along with him. The quiet, unexpected moments in which the Sacred would burst uninvited into Ian's life were a breath of fresh air for me as well. (As you read, watch for the deer. it's a wonderful moment.) The tether tied to Ian's heart in that first communion began to tug on me as well.
Ian's story of redemption and reconciliation is moving and beautiful. Even those dark days through which he unflinchingly led us become sacred and powerful in the final light of God's love. It's a great, easy and fun read that will have you laughing and get you a little choked up. (Watch for the cliff diving. I seriously almost lost it. Incredible.) From his experiences as a child with a mysterious, mercurial, alcoholic father to becoming a father himself, plagued by his own alcoholism and insecurities, Ian's path was never easy.
Bottom line: You'll be a better person after you read this book. Ian is an outstanding writer; his journ
Posted July 10, 2011
"Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me" (A memoir of sorts), is a life story of the author, Ian Morgan Cron.
Cron, an Episcopal Minister, takes the reader on a ride of Ups and Downs as he tells the story of his life. Usually, I have found, memoirs of this sort, tend to be of interest to the writer and to their family, however, Cron has woven a story that once picked up, the reader can not put it down.
I found my self laughing and crying (depending on the situation), while reading through this memoir. As Cron states a memoir is what we remember and how we remember the times of our lives. No one can remember every little detail of their lives, but how it is remembered and the way Cron writes his memoir is captivating. He has a wonder way of pulling the reader into the story and keeping them there.
Cron speaks in detail about his struggles with his Faith, his father's life, drunkenness and actions. He also learns of his father's involvement with the CIA. All this while growing up in the affluent community of Greenwich, Connecticut. Cron does not leave any thing out regarding his own feelings in this story. He spares nothing in bringing his life alive in the readers mind.
What I learned from this story is that nothing is impossible and that our faith and closeness to God can and will prevail.
I was able to read and review this selection, through the kindness of Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishing, and thank them for this opportunity. I would like to send out a special Thank You to Ian Cron for writing and sharing this memorable story. "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me is a must read.
Posted July 7, 2011
books that give you an stray thought or two. And then there are books that get under your skin and transform the way you look at things. This is one of the third kind. This book is powerful, at times even overwhelming. You can not read this book and approach fatherhood or the Eucharist the same way again. You can not read this book and think of Christianity the same way. This book will change you.
Cron's story of growing up with a father larger - and smaller - than life is enthralling and heartbreaking. The secrets of the CIA and of alcoholism mix together in stories shared in a confessional whisper. Weaved throughout is a sense of just how many cracks there are in our mosaics, with a grounding in the absurdity of the author's life. Passionate--open hearted--piercingly intelligent--earthy--occasionally profane--absolutely unconventional--Ian's raw story of his own life pulled me along to its hopeful conclusion.
What an extraordinary memoir - an exquisitely written story of a life that is fascinating, devastating and ultimately truly redemptive.
Posted July 5, 2011
Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program allows bloggers to receive free copies of books for review purposes. That's how I got to read "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me" by Ian Morgan Cron. I say that for two reasons: (1) I'm required by law to disclose that my copy of the book was free; and (2) I am pretty sure I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for Booksneeze. And I would have missed out on reading one of the best books I have ever laid eyes on.
If I were to tell you what this book is about--a middle-aged Episcopal priest recounts his growing up with a dad who was an alcoholic CIA spy, I daresay your interest would fail to rise to a level adequate to convince you to crack this book open. And it doesn't even have a catchy title. Any hope for the success of "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and me" (success being defined as this book getting the audience it deserves) hinges on one thing: word of mouth. And that's where I come in.
Cron's story is one which, CIA stuff aside, is all too common. But his writing is uncommonly good. Great, even. This book is a clinic on how to use the best possible words to convey exactly what you want to. If writing were acting, then Cron's performance throughout this book rivals anything that Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Geoffrey Rush, or Marlon Brando have ever given us. It would be a shoo-in for an Oscar.
As hard as it is to put aside the writing, I have to point out the story itself. As the reader encounters the various episodes of Cron's life, there are two parallel threads: the impact of Cron's earthly father, and the hand of his heavenly Father, throughout his journey. From one end to the other, we see example after example of both of these. God's hand is present throughout, guiding and rescuing the young man as the actions of his dad do their damage and leave their mark.
The 2nd to last chapter, essentially the climactic one, uses a family outing at a swimming hole to deal with Cron's doubts about his own ability to father. It's classic. You've heard critics say "You'll laugh; you'll cry"? Well, in this chapter, I did both, often at the same time. Seeing this man learn to father (even as he wasn't fathered well, but he was Fathered well) is as uplifting and freeing as anything I have seen written in years. It's a powerful way to end a powerful story.
Posted July 5, 2011
Imagine your father, a stockbroker, has a surprise secret you discover when you're 16. He is, in fact, not a stockbroker, but a CIA agent. His father who also happened to be an alcoholic. His father who led his family through wealth and poverty, wealth and poverty again. That is what this story is about - but it's also about so much more. It's about Cron's own journey as his father's son, and as his Father's son, his coming to terms with his dad's story. This is Cron's story of his own redemption and the grace he found in his life and how he came to know Jesus.
This is a really fantastic book, simply put.
Cron slips back and forth between the present and the past, telling us his both his father's story and his own. I am a huge fan of this technique, and it works so well with Cron's story. Going back and forth allowed me to put the pieces of the story together, and again, a non-linear storyline forces me to really focus on what I'm reading. Cron's story was interesting and funny enough as it was, but I loved that I couldn't just speed through it.
And that's the thing - this book had a great humor to it. Cron had every right and reason to be angry - deception and disease in your family when you are young sometimes leaves you that way - but has made peace with the life he has lived and instead of coming across bitter and angry, he comes across as raw and honest and funny. I couldn't help but laugh several times throughout the book, and that made his message of God's goodness and grace and His desire to have a relationship with everyone even more poignant. If God can help this man keep his humor, then there is hope for me, too.
I recommend this to anyone who is interested in memories and biographies, especially unique ones that haven't been done before. I thought this was a great take on an unusual childhood.
I received this book for free from BookSneeze in exchange for a review. I was not asked to make a positive review, only an honest one.