There are so many ways to start this review. As someone who’s worked in marketing books, this book is a gift to market. Story of love against all odds? Check. World leading New Testament scholar? Check. War? Check. Complex relational webs? Check. Two divorced people encountering God in a deeper way and being drawn together by his good sovereign hand? Check.
That would be one way of starting this review. I’ve been reading things by Craig Keener, a New Testament Academic at Asbury Seminary in the USA, for quite a while now. At the Society of Vineyard Scholars 2018 Conference, we heard from Craig and his wonderful wife Medine. They spoke more personally than cerebrally – but that would be to set up a false binary, because in their personal story there is a deep theology. This story is shared in this book, Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope Against All Odds, and is well worth reading.
I love reading stories – biographical or autobiographical – of the saints who have gone before. I rather less enjoy reading the stories of people who are still alive (Surely their story has much more to be written) but Impossible Love broke that paradigm for me. This was in part as it is more of an autobiography of a beautiful relationship that became a beautiful marriage – the Impossible Love the title hints at – but also because both Craig and Medine are incredibly honest: warts and all. From the terror and visceral pain (which Medine describes in such a powerfully nonplussed way that it counter-intuitively draws you in to the story) of fleeing with a baby and disabled father from civil war, to the unexpected personal trauma of divorce (which Craig describes in his part) this is a book that invites you into two very different worlds and then draws you towards a beautiful conclusion. In that way, this is a very Kingdom-of-God-shaped-book.
Impossible Love is easy to read. Despite Craig’s reputation for producing academic doorstops, he writes personally and simply about his own story. So too for Medine – and her story is incredibly powerful. The two alternate – sections (not chapters) are title ‘Craig’ and ‘Medine’, ranging from a couple of paragraphs to multiple pages. This works very well – and echoes the marriage that comes from this story. Impossible Love is also hard to read – as I noted in my review opener, this book covers an immense amount of ground. I look forward to reading the Keener’s work on reconciliation, and Craig’s book on divorce, to flesh out some of the theological issues touched upon in this book.
This book is superb. It reads beautifully and easily, inviting the reader into the stories of two very different people, a relationship that thrives against the odds, and a God who is Good and ever-present. I’d recommend it, whether you’ve been a Christian for decades or are just wondering who this God person is, and whether Jesus is worth investigating.