Thursday, July 21, 2011

"a short life well lived" by tom sullivan

Though blind, Brian has lived an idyllic life. He's a respected prosecutor in the DA's office; he is married to a beautiful woman; his children adore him. Suddenly, Brian's world is shattered when his 11-year-old son, Tommy, is diagnosed with cancer. A nominal Catholic (at best), Brian struggles to understand how a God who is supposed to be loving could allow his boy to become so ill. He soon meets Rev. Clayton McRae, the chaplain at Tommy's hospital. Through friendship and understanding, Clayton helps Brian come to grips with Tommy's illness and helps him understand the faith that everyone around him seems to embrace.

As I read this book, I found my opinion switching frequently. Parts of it were wonderful: The plot was heart wrenching. (Anyone who has seen a loved one go through a horrible illness will identify.) The writing was engaging, and the glimpse into the life of a blind man was informative and entertaining. And I teared up multiple times as Tommy's illness progressed--the story is quite realistic.

The problems, though, perhaps outweigh the positives. Sullivan wants to weave faith into the novel, which is a noble goal. In fact, much of the story centers around Brian's faith ... or lack thereof. The problem, as I see it, is what that faith looks like. As I read, the question I kept asking myself was, "What is the gospel according to this book?" The answer, as best as I could grasp it, is this: God loves you. If you follow God, you'll go to heaven. But what does it mean to follow God? That's unclear. The cross is never mentioned, and Jesus and sin are just given a few sentences in passing. I also found it troubling that the one time sin is mentioned, it's when Brian is asking Rev. McRae about prayer. McRae says that confession is an essential part of prayer, and Brian quickly asks what sins Tommy could have committed in his short life. I thought this would finally be the point where the gospel came out. But no. Instead, McRae brushes over it and says that they're talking about Brian, not Tommy.

I had one other major issue with the book, but this wasn't theological. While most of the book was well written and engaging, the parts where the doctors were explaining Tommy's diagnosis and treatment plan were, well, boring. I skimmed them.

As a novel, I really enjoyed this book. As a Christian novel, I had problems with it. It does a great job of showing God's love and sovereignty, and I think it could help people deal with grief and the "whys" of life. But I think it's also misleading, as--even though it sounds nice--salvation doesn't come from simply believing there is a God and He loves us.

About the Author

Tom Sullivan, known to many as an actor, singer, entertainer, author, and producer, lives and works by "Sullivan's Rules". Born prematurely in 1947, Tom was given too much oxygen while in an incubator. Though it saved his life, it cost him his eyesight. The "inconvenience" of being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better.

Over the years he's made a number of guest-starring appearances in shows such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame, M.A.S.H., Mork & Mindy, and WKRP in Cincinnati. To create the characters and fulfill the role of a blind man on prime time, he also helped write and develop many of these stories. he gained popularity on daytime TV as a regular on Search For Tomorrow and was awarded the 1984 Governors Committee Award for his role. Tome has also been nominated twice for Emmy Awards. As a special correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America, Tom has become a regular morning fixture in millions of American homes. his touching and insightful reports give many that "you can do it" bit of inspiration to start their day. Whether it was snow skiing with his son in Colorado, or interviewing the legendary Jack Nicklaus over a few holes of golf, his reporting is memorable. He is now writing and producing for television and film. He is a bestselling author of fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Glass Road Public Relations. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. Hey Becky, I actually had the same concerns as I was reading. I probably should have written them down in a notebook so I could remember to put them in the review. I think I will start keeping a notebook. :) Great review!

  2. A notebook has really helped me! I don't do it for everything--if it's fiction that I'm totally into, I usually don't need to take notes. But if it's nonfiction or something like this, where red flags are popping up, I have to write it down so I don't forget!


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