Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mercy Never Sleeps by Jamie Blaine

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 a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

I picked up this book to read because I like Blaine's first book so much. I don't like Mercy Never Sleeps any less, but it does feel very much the same. Blaine is a textbook misfit - an oddball kid who turned into an oddball adult -
he's worked as a DJ, both for events and on the radio, came from a less than ideal childhood situation, and currently (at least as far as the book is concerned) works as the overnight crisis hotline guy in his small southern hometown.

The book is a bit rambly, but in a good way - switching back and forth between trauma hotline stories and childhood memories, with a bit of existential self-reflection mixed in. Blaine is honest and real in ways you rarely see in Christian publishing. He's enamored with the miraculous, but very much steeped in realism, walking the tightrope between faith and reason profoundly and with authenticity. He's not an intellectual, but he's also not blind to complexity.

The stories are great and the writing style makes them more mysterious. You continually wonder if he's going to get life right or fall off the cliff so many of his clients seem poised atop. There's no resolution. That's the takeaway from Mercy Never Sleeps - some people may find peace,
stability, and purpose through Christianity, but perhaps its ok if the rest of us just make it through another day intact. There's a sense in which Blaine captures the context of the gospel in ways that most of us never consider. Jesus was hope for the hopeless, not a get your life together plan.

At the same time, with a second edition of the same kind of material, there's more pause to ask what the point of it all is. According to the bio, Blaine lives in Nashville now, presumably to write for a living. I imagine he'd be a great speak for any number of events. The acknowledgments mention a wife, who's supportive so long as she doesn't appear in the writing. That's both refreshing, but also puzzling.

It leads one to wonder how truly confessional Blaine's stories are and to what level they're crafted to make a point. I'm not sure either reality is wrong or bad, but it's tough to reconcile apparent authenticity with an author who's not as open as he appears. Perhaps this just adds to the takeaway for Mercy Never Sleeps, that we don't get life wrapped up in a nice little package, we just get life, with questions and reflections and lenses that keep us from seeing clearly.

Mercy Never Sleeps feels true, even if it doesn't depict events in a purely historical fashion. It's a modern gospel in the purest sense of the word: one man's reflections on how his life intersected with Jesus. It might not be all we want it to be, but it's a compassionate, genuine,
and sincere portrayal of what it means to face the world unselfconsciously and with open arms.

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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