Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Encouraging story that might hit you in unexpected ways
Cons: None of me
The Bottom Line:
Honest struggles shared
Will God have message for you?
Faith in God shines through

Struggles and Triumph in a Marriage that Can Teach Us All

While I haven’t been sharing the details on line with the general population, the last year has been hard for me.  I’ve faced several trials that have shaken my life up quite a bit.  And they seem to be on going.  As a result, I know I’ve been drifting spiritually, and it’s scared me.  I still believe what I have always believed, but it doesn’t seem quite real to me any more.

None of this was on my mind when I selected Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story to read and review.  It was offered by Amazon’s Vine program, and since I have followed Joni and her ministry off and on for years, I was interested in this look at her marriage.  I didn’t think God would use it to whack me upside the head.  After all, their lives are very different from mine.

For those who are not familiar with the story, Joni broke her neck in a diving accident when she was only seventeen.  Since then, she has lived her life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down.  And while she struggled initially with the new reality of her life, God used it to draw her closer to Himself.  She has started a ministry, Joni and Friends, that helps the disabled all around the world in the name of Christ.

She met Ken when they were both in their 30’s.  Despite all the things standing in their way, they fell in love and got married.  However, as this book demonstrates, it has not all be smooth sailing for them.

The book actually opens with Joni’s diagnosis with breast cancer just a couple of years ago and then flashes back to them meeting, falling in love, getting married, and what happened when the daily routine of caring for Joni got to be too much for Ken.  While he took his vows seriously, he did begin to withdraw.  But that’s not the end of the story as God used a book and good friends to speak to his heart and renew their relationship in ways neither of them expected.

I was surprised to find the book was written in the third person.  But that doesn’t get in the way.  Over the course of the book, we get real insight into the life and minds of both Joni and Ken.  While I knew the broad strokes already, getting the details was very interesting to me.  And we spend some time in Ken’s head and getting his background, which makes this man much more real to me.

In addition to Joni’s physical limitations, they’ve also had the fact that she is world famous to deal with, and Ken has struggle with his place in her world.  All of this is covered very well, and you can identify with both of them.

The book does jump around a bit in time, but each section is clearly labeled, so it is easy to follow exactly where the latest story, scene, or vignette fits into the overall picture.  And the writing does jump between Joni and Ken's viewpoints at times.  While this is something that can bother me in other books, it is handled well and works here.

And at only 190 pages, this is a fast read.  The writing is always great, and I was pulled into their lives with no problem at all.

I was expecting a look at a marriage that had started strong and had some struggles along the way.  That was what I got.  The struggles that they faced for a number of years were more extreme than I was expecting, but God pulled them through to the much more solid ground they are both thankful to be on today.  That alone would have made the book great, in my opinion.

Now, as I mentioned, there is little I can relate to in the superficial circumstances.  I’m single.  I don’t know anyone in a wheelchair in my regular life.  So I wasn’t expecting much in the way of takeaway for me personally.

And yet, God had other ideas.  As I read the book, I was struck time and time again by the faith that Joni and Ken showed and their trust in God.  It’s something I know is lacking in my own life.  But as Ken began to be convicted to spend more time in prayer and God’s word, that’s when it started to hit me.  This is what is missing in my life.  I knew it, but I could feel God saying to me, “How can I help you in your life if you keep yourself so busy that you have no time for Me?’  And it’s a very good point, one I knew, yet one I haven’t put into practice.  No, I’m not quite sure what this will look like going forward.  It’s something I’m struggling through, but it is something I need to recommit to in my life.

I realize that not everyone will get this message or lesson out of Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story But for me, God used it to show me exactly what I needed.  Who knows what God may have for you in this story.  But even if all you do is get an encouraging story of a couple who has made their marriage work against overwhelming odds, this book is well worth reading.


  1. I thought about waiting to come over and read this until after I had read the book, but I'm glad I went ahead. It's neat how God used it in your life. I find, too, that when I am reading books about real people who are serious in their walk with God, it always impacts me, even if their circumstances are far different from mine. I think that's what I love about reading "old" missionary stories, but I love it in current books as well.

    1. You know, I've read many biographies of great Christians over the years, but this is the first time one really hit me like this. I think it was a case of right place, right time. And I'm very thankful for it.

  2. This is AWESOME! I waited to read your review until I had read it myself. (I posted my thoughts today, linked back to yours.)

    THIS is the type of post which makes me so EXCITED to read books. (Hence I have to use all caps.) Books touch people. God uses books to speak silently to our hearts when we can't hear Him otherwise for all the noise about us. I'm so very sorry to hear life has been rough lately but I am so excited to know that God used a book - this book - to pull you back in. That's just awesome.

    My thoughts:

    1. Thanks for linking up to me. I can't wait to see what you have to say about it.

  3. I'm glad God used this book to speak to you. I can relate to your spiritual quandary. I look forward to reading this title!

    1. I will be interested in hearing what you think of it after you've read it.


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