“A poignant, sensitive, and thoughtful memoir that illuminates the complexity of the phenomenon that we call faith and delineates its flow and ebb.”—Karen Armstrong, The Case for God
A profoundly personal, deeply felt exploration of the mystery of faith—having it, losing it, hoping for its return.
The son of an Episcopal priest whose faith is balanced by an understanding of human nature, Eric Lax develops in his youth a deep religious attachment and acute moral compass. An acolyte from age six and as comfortable in church as he is at home, he often considers becoming a priest himself. Eventually his faith guides him to resist military service in Vietnam. His principles will not allow him to kill, and he is willing to go to jail for them. His faith abides until, in his mid-thirties, he begins to question the unquestionable: the role of God in his life.
Whatever his doubts, Lax engages with his father, who shaped his faith and was its anchor, and his college roommate and close friend George “Skip” Packard, whose youthful faith mirrored his own, and who chooses military service and mortal combat. Their ongoing and illuminating dialogues—full of wisdom and insight, probing all the avenues and aspects of religious conviction—reveal much about three men who approach God, duty, and war in vastly different ways.
A compelling, powerful, and thought-provoking examination of faith.
Eric Lax is the author of On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, Life and Death on 10 West, and The Mold in Dr. Florey’s Coat, and coauthor (with A. M. Sperber) of Bogart. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and the Los Angeles Times. An officer of International PEN, he lives with his wife and their two sons in Los Angeles.
From our Q&A with the author:
Q: Amid the current battles over faith and religion, there appears to be a silent majority of people who don’t align themselves either with the fundamentalists or the atheists, who don’t know quite what to believe about their faith. Your book gives a reasoned and passionate voice to this group; was that your intention?
A: It certainly was my hope. So many books about faith—and many written by really intelligent people—take a single line: “You’re crazy if you have faith” or, “You’re crazy if you don’t have faith.” I marvel at their surety. I’ve always experienced faith as a mystery, when I had it, and now that I don’t. But I have no assurance that I’m right in my thinking or that I’m even close to an answer about belief. I just know in retrospect how wonderful it was to have faith, and that I can’t fake having it when it’s not there. I suspect there are many people with my dilemma, and I hope that my experience will be useful to them as they struggle with their own changing faith, or its loss. And I hope as well that people of faith who read this will be understanding of friends who grapple with belief.
Q: You are perhaps best known for your books on film stars like Woody Allen and Humphrey Bogart. What made you want to write your own story? And why now?
A: I’ve also written about life on a bone marrow transplantation ward, and the development of penicillin, so I like a lot of different topics. I’ve been thinking about this book for at least 10 years. I’ve long been curious about how people come to faith, how they keep it or lose it, and how they use it for good or ill. An omnibus book about faith didn’t appeal to me (nor do I have the scholarship to write one). As I thought more about the subject, I realized that my own story, intertwined with those of my father, an Episcopal priest, and my college roommate George Packard, whose youthful faith mirrored my own, might be a way to examine the subject in a way that would be enjoyable for me to write and also draw readers into a story that would prompt them to consider their own faith as well. As for why write it now, I’m at a point in life—my mid-sixties—where if you aren’t thinking about God and faith and what happens next, you’re not paying attention. As there are no definite answers to these questions, I knew the book had to be short.