Book Review: LOST MY WAY IN THE DARKNESS by Mack Ames

LOST MY WAY IN THE DARKNESS, an indie penned by educator Mack Ames, is hard to categorize. Set in the 1980s, it’s a boyhood Coming of Age story with Christian and Inspirational themes. Despite the religious undertones, Ames doesn’t hold back in terms of realistic, rough language, sensitive and gritty topics, and realistic situations. Episodic in form, the timeline follows a group of interconnected childhood friends from middle school to high school as they navigate difficult family situations, confusing sexual impulses, predatory abuses, and . . . soccer.  

The main character, Jack Bannister, arrives in a new town after suffering the tragic loss of his mother. His father has remarried, and he and “the Dragon” as Jack calls her, are worried that Jack has fallen in with the wrong crowd. They enroll him in an Evangelical Christian School where his stepmother has taken a teaching job. Now Jack not only has to deal with his grief and subsequent questioning of his faith, but he also has to make new friends and try to find his way in that in-between time of adolescence, when everything is in flux: raging hormones, heightened emotions, becoming one’s own person, and figuring out who we are, what we believe, and the kind of person we want to be. 

Jack becomes friends with a couple of local hoodlums, on the one hand, and with a bullied, intelligent, gentle-hearted farm boy, on the other. Soon he is tempted in several ways. The rough friends encourage him to shoplift. They bully his gentler, kinder friend. And then there’s the question of sexuality. Ames doesn’t hold back when it comes to homosexuality and the confusion and conflicted emotions when one is attracted to the same sex while at the same time being told it is a sin. This theme runs throughout the book, ultimately resolved in a way that a progressive, non-believer might find offensive, but for Christians the nuances offered here might be eye-opening and even helpful. 

Woven throughout are ideas about faith, God, love, the tenets of Christianity, and how the impulses of our human nature are sometimes at odds with the “rules” set up in organized religion. There are funny moments, too, and scenes of simple boyhood pleasures like fort-building, swimming, and camping. The dark and light sides are explored and addressed in a thoughtful, loving way–not with a  judgemental attitude but rather compassion and discernment. It’s quite a combo!

 In a way, this story reminds me of those told on that old Christian radio program,  UNSHACKLED with the “sin, suffer, repent” elements, but with a less judgy point of view. Recommended for people interested in the intersection of faith and psychology, LOST MY WAY IN THE DARKNESS is, I believe, something quite new. 

Perhaps Mack Ames has managed to write a story that inspires a new genre. Gritty Inspirational, anyone?

Olivia Lively makes her debut one month from TODAY! Woo-hoo! I’m also hard a work on Book 2 in the series, with a working title of NIGHT MOVES. This time there’s a dead body…

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