Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron was, by far, my best read last summer.
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With Cron's deliciously witty and profound style of writing, I felt I journeyed with the protagonist Chase, an all-American pastor facing a crisis of faith, on his spiritual pilgrimage. Much to my delight, Chase's journey wasn't just a figurative one, as Cron took him to Italy to visit his Franciscan monk uncle. It was there that he was introduced to St. Francis of Assissi, whom, across the generations which separated them, patiently led him deeper into the loving heart of God in the midst of this painful world. Chase became fascinated by this historical figure and his testimony of faith, and in studying him, tracing his movements across the Italian countryside, he was led to meet interesting modern-day figures living out their journeys of faith and doubt in myriad ways. He began to see the world with different eyes. And he would never be the same.
Best part of story, including ending:
I think Cron is a brilliant writer. Here he's written a novel, but also a biography, and even a deeply theological sermon all in one. His characters are believable and real, but they exist to teach. And don't even get me started on his description of Italy!
Best scene in story:
I think the scene that touched me most, out of an entire book of thoughtful, life-giving prose, was when Chase was faced with serving in a hospice where AIDS patients went to die... He was totally changed by the act of bathing a dying man-- humbled and broken and built-up and encouraged all at once.
Opinion about the main character:
I love Chase's sense of humor. He is at the same time deeply sarcastic and witty, as well as thoughtful, sensitive, and creative.