Thursday, January 8, 2015

‘Against All Odds’ (Book Review)

A risky combination of drug addict and drug dealer, Joe Tarasuk would be expected to have had a rough life. Now rehabilitated and on the right side of the law, he shares his story in Against All Odds: A Miracle Journey of Recovery and Success (Together Bound, 2013). Readers can follow him through his troubled childhood, dangerous life on the streets, prison sentence, mental hospital stay, cultic experimentation, and family tragedy to his successful recovery and growth in Christian ministry. Tarasuk is the founder of CrossRoads Freedom Center, a residential recovery program for those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. Although he doesn’t come out and say it, I suspect the purpose of his book is to raise awareness among Christians about the need for such places of healing and to also provide a source of comfort for readers who might be experiencing similar problems.

While I can admire an author who bravely steps out on a limb like this to share his tragic story with the public, I honestly couldn’t get into Against All Odds. Something about the overall tone made me uncomfortable, and I couldn’t sympathize with the lead character. Tarasuk illustrates perfectly why “baby Christians” (i.e., new converts) shouldn’t rush into ministry. How was he supposed to affect change in other people while he was still struggling so much himself? No, I don’t think someone has to have a perfect life before trying to help others. But I do think he got his priorities mixed up. Getting the help that he needed and that his wife desperately needed should’ve come before anyone and everything else. The way things continued to unravel in his life – personally, financially, and in business – seem to be the natural consequences of this.

Other issues: I think Against All Odds could’ve benefit from a few more drafts. The content was unbalanced: too much detail in some places and not enough in others. For example, from the CrossRoads website and the book’s dedication, a reader would get the idea that two turning points in Tarasuk’s life were being raped as a child and later meeting Charles Colson, founder of the Christian outreach program Prison Fellowship. Yet the author mentions these almost in passing. Many times it seemed like he was just reciting events instead of trying to engage the readers in a meaningful story. I really wish Tarasuk had sought the assistance of an experienced coauthor or had gone with a traditional publisher with a grouchy editor. The author has something important to share, but unfortunately it was lost on a sub-par book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. 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.