[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of: “Finding Heaven in the Dark” by William L. Ingram.] Review by Mallory Whitaker
Have you ever felt like your mind is working against you? That you are too bogged down by negative thoughts about both you and the people around you? That you are your own worst enemy? In his spiritual memoir, Finding Heaven in the Dark, William L. Ingram explores the idea of the “enemy mind” and how he has conquered his through the lost art of Christian Meditation.
The book is divided into two parts. The narrative is nonlinear, but the author does it in such a way that it’s not difficult to know when and where things are taking place. Ingram’s natural storytelling abilities coupled with his casual tone makes the narrative flow effortlessly. Ingram is personable and relatable.
The reader first meets Ingram when he’s twenty-one years old and has turned himself into the U.S. Marine Corps after three years of being AWOL. This is also the first time he communicates with his family after three years of silence. It’s a modern version of the Prodigal Son. The book explores the psychological effects of events and relationships during his childhood and how these led him to join, and eventually leave, the Marines. The largest portion of the book focuses on the three years he spent at a skid-row mission in Los Angeles. Here he redefines his religion and makes leaps and bounds on the road to self-discovery and redemption.
The novel takes place during the tumultuous 1960’s; this provides the book with a colorful setting. Ingram is a young African-American male trying to find his way during a time when so many are trying to redefine not only themselves, but the American culture. He explores things like racism (which he faults both sides for), the hippie movement, a group I was unaware of called “Freaks for Jesus”, and the effects of the Vietnam War on the American psyche. All of this leads to Ingram being surrounded by very colorful characters who bring this rich history to life. It also illustrates that Ingram isn’t the only wayward spirit in a rush to identify himself without first learning who he is. This journey of self-discovery is a prominent theme in this book, especially in Part II.
In Part I, Ingram is shown as both the best and worst versions of himself. First, there’s the reformed Ingram turning himself in to face the music (and his family). Then there’s the immature Ingram who left the Marines, his family, and frequently succumbed his vice of choice. This juxtaposition effectively shows just how far he’s come during those three years. The flashbacks to his youth show the reader everything they need to know about how Ingram came to be the disillusioned, bitter and self-conscious person he was prior to his discovery of Christian Meditation.
The author’s knowledge, passion, and colorful life story make for a truly intriguing read.
I would recommend this book to readers who are exploring Christianity and/or meditation, enjoy reading stories reminiscent of the Prodigal Son, or are trying to find ways to cope with their own inner demons and seek an inner peace.