Title: Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story
Author: Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby
“Joni and I have talked about it, and I don’t think a lot of couples get a chance at a love like this, at closeness like this. It’s like all this has been a gift God has given us,” Ken confides in an interview with James Dobson in Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, Joni & Ken – An Untold Love Story.
At one hundred and eight-seven pages, this hardbound book is written in third person with the assistance of Larry Libby. Targeted toward Christians, it discusses the trials and tribulations of a married couple’s life living with one having major physical disabilities while trying to purposefully trust God. The first four pages include the book’s accolades with Libby’s preface following. After ten chapters with sixteen pages of photographs, Joni concludes writing a personal note and acknowledgements.
Marriage is challenging; marriage with physical difficulties is even more challenging. In this memoir, Joni and Ken explain through a third person’s set of eyes how they met, married and adjusted through over thirty years of ups and downs of life that included her being a quadriplegic with chronic pain and breast cancer.
The first chapter starts in 2011 when wheel-chair ridden Joni, known for her Christian outreach ministry to the disabled community, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Ken, her husband who is a high school teacher, is used to the day to day pattern of years taking care of his wife as both question one more test God is giving them.
Two chapters later, flashbacks of meeting one another at church, courting, marrying and traveling while dealing with ongoing health concerns set a pattern for the rest of the book while each spouse separately searches for his or her place in a marriage that gives them little time together, constant dealings with medical issues, vented arguments and silent emotional hurts as all focus is on Joni and her public persona.
When depressed and despondent Ken revisits his past, upbringing and need for his father’s approval, he realizes that he must give all to God to be able to become the husband he is supposed to be. At the end of rope with pneumonia after her chemotherapy, Joni has to finally recognize how God has given her a true man that seeks Christ first, in spite of her selfishness, perfectionism and strong-willed ego.
Although there is over-lapping repetition due to the flashbacks and majority of the scenarios are viewed from only Joni’s perspective and opinion, it is revealing to see that marriages with physical disabilities have the same problems as those that do not and that we all should ultimately rely on the Lord. Ken puts it all in perspective when he says, “Joni, if I met all your expectations, you wouldn’t need God!” which, years later, makes sense to the couple deeper in love with Christ and each other.
Hoping not misconstrued, this reader questions one line of Joni’s salvation story: “how Jesus Christ won the right to be her substitute on the cross” when in actuality, one should be eternally grateful that Christ willingly died on the cross, enabling the forgiveness of sins.
This book was furnished by Zondervan through Booksneeze for review purposes.