The Only Road North begins with a warning, letting you know just what kind of book this is:
My story offers no resolution and has no ending. It is not nice or neat, but it is real… After a long and trepidant road we will finally arrive before we started, with more questions than answers, completely and totally unsettled, but ever searching, ever hopeful.
You may be thinking: Most 23-year-olds haven’t lived long enough to write something like that.
Then again, most 23-year-olds haven’t been arrested (repeatedly) for helping refugees in Morocco. Or motorcycled their way across the African continent.
And most 23-year-olds haven’t had their bodies riddled with hundreds of nails from a suicide bomber standing just a few feet away and detonating pure hatred. But that’s what happened to Erik two years ago this month.
I wouldn’t say I “enjoyed” Erik’s book. I don’t think you’re supposed to. Even at the story’s most exhilirating moments, you know something terrible is just around the corner, waiting to happen. You wish you could, by sheer force of will, stop Erik, his brother, and his two friends from going to Cairo… from going to that market…
But you can’t.
So what should you expect from reading Erik’s book? That depends. There are places where the writing could have been better. There are places where the writing is brilliant, too. But that’s not really the point. I can only wonder what kind of courage it takes to relive a story like this, so people like me can read it.
You may be looking for a nice story of a good Christian kid. Someone who’s “on fire for the Lord.” For whom every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before…
In that case, you might want to choose another book.
Erik goes almost breathlessly from living the frat boy life in Colorado to helping missionaries in Morocco. There doesn’t seem to be a clear “Damascus road” experience between the two. But if you’re like me, you might take comfort in being reminded that God doesn’t always wait for us to get our act together before he decides to use us.
You may be in search of answers. You won’t find many in Erik’s book. But you might be comforted by the fact that someone who’s been terrorized by unspeakable evil has the same questions, the same doubts as you do. You may discover from reading Erik’s story that doubt is not the opposite of faith; it’s not the opposite of hope…
…in which case I promise you, The Only Road North will be worth every page.