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Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey

An honest and detailed autobiographical account of Yancey’s journey of faith, which reveals the impact made by his father’s early death and the consequences of a difficult upbringing

Where the Light FellWhere the Light Fell
By Philip Yancey
ISBN: 9780593238509
Hodder and Stoughton
Reviewed by Helen Wordsworth

Among the many writings of Philip Yancey you will find evocative glimpses of a past and present family life that has been hugely impactful. Yet that family life is a history that has been deeply relevant to his significant contributions to contemporary Christian literature.  

And at last we find out more. Where the Light Fell is a detailed series of memoirs that in places you may find quite difficult to read; not because they are written in an academic way, but because you may begin to feel some of the pain that is described. At times you empathise with a mother who struggles alone to bring up her two sons in the faith, and yet what strikes you is the deep honesty with which Yancey describes the family relationship, and how it has affected all of their lives.  You also begin to understand with sadness both the reality and the harmful outcome of hidden hypocrisy within some individuals who may play a respected part in church life. 

As he describes his school and college life in a 60s Southern state you are helped to distinguish those fundamental rules and expectations that were so entwined with faith but so clearly flawed; the racism, the separatism, and the control mechanisms. Yet despite all of this a glimmer of light shines through, as somehow or other Yancey is just about able to hold on to what really matters…the fact that God deeply loves and reaches out to even this sceptical rebel. 

If you are reading the book from a conservative evangelical perspective, you may feel uncomfortable and certainly challenged as you identify with some of the culturally and politically derived, yet faith-integrated behaviours of a home and church life that was deeply damaging. With the author you long for there to be restoration and reconciliation both with his brother, and with those who have been part of the story. He makes many emotionally demanding efforts to bring this about, and eventually there is indeed a measure of forgiveness within the family, but you are left with the feeling that it is not yet complete. 

In summary, a sad yet hopeful story, and one that should be read by all believers who want their children to inherit a faith that is sincere, genuine, and unobstructed by unnecessary appendages and puzzling behaviours.


The Revd Dr Helen Wordsworth was a Regional Minister in both the Heart of England and Central Baptist Associations, and founder of Parish Nursing Ministries UK. She now helps with a church plant in France, and advises on Parish Nursing internationally



Baptist Times, 21/01/2022
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