Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

I read Yankoski's first book - Under the Overpass - quite recently, even though it was written something like ten years ago. In it, Yankoski recounts his journey, with a friend, to experience homelessness in cities across the US. It is a powerful look into both homelessness and the spiritual journey of youth.

The Sacred Year finds Yankoski a decade later: married, attending graduate school, and living a successful career as a writer and speaker on the Christian conference circuit. He has, essentially, an existential crisis, retreating to a monastery for reflection and serious spiritual direction. A monk there recommends emergence into some historic practices as remedy. Yankoski dedicates a year to exploring and embracing things like attentiveness, contemplation, simplicity, confession, service, and pilgrimage, among others - finding new rhythms and balance in his life and faith.

It's a beautifully written book, with poignant narratives. Dealing with dense topics can be difficult, but Yankoski manages to mostly achieve proper depth without overwhelming the reader. By the end, Yankoski is practicing and advocating some things he and many of his readers may have written off or ridiculed near the beginning of the journey; it is a testament to God's faithfulness and Yankoski's talent that these fall perfectly in line with the narrative thrust of the book.

Perhaps I find this work more important than it is because I resonate so well with the author. I gather we are of similar age; his story is familiar. I was dealing with many of the deep faith issues he touches on in Under the Overpass at the same age; I am learning to appreciate my faith in greater depth and context now. If nothing else, it is important to see the real and often difficult process of spiritual formation present in Yankoski's (accidental?) chronicle from one book to the other. For that reason alone, it would be worth his continuing to write. Thankfully his prose and perspective are even more worthy of our continued attention.

There's nothing simple here, although The Sacred Year is immanently accessible, yet there is also a refreshing simplicity - an exploration of faith far more about personal development than goal-oriented self-justification. This should be a benefit and blessing to any who attempt to journey with Yankoski through his sacred year.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® 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.”

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