Hold on for an emotional ride!!! Ian Cron’s Jesus, The Cia, My Father and Me: A Memoir of Sorts honors his life journey. It takes readers back to the time of his childhood in the 1960s with vivid detail. We journey with him through his adolescence and on into adulthood, all the while his graceful and humorous prose belies the painful and uncomfortable journey the reader is travelling with him.
Jesus lies between the lines. This is not a story of “born-again, no-book-but-the-Bible, Jesus brought me salvation.” It is about the comfort and reliability of formal religious rituals. Nothing in the title prepares the reader for the brutally raw stories of life as the child of an abusive alcoholic father. There is enough humor at the outset to see his father as a cartoon-like caricature. Is his father really a spy for the CIA? Or is this the delusional thinking of his alcoholic father or even the delusional thinking of a boy who desperately needs to believe something good about this man.
This is a story of the sacred and the profane. Cron finds both wonder and comfort in the rituals of the Catholic Church, of his youth, especially through the Holy Communion. Rich with detail and elegant prose, his descriptions of the Catholic rites and rituals of his childhood will recall the reader’s religious rites of passage regardless of denomination. At home he faces the danger and unpredictability of an alcoholic father. This chaos at home created a powerful need for the consistency which the church provided. No matter where he might wander, the author always returned to the church. Cron’s journey from childhood disappointments to adolescent drinking binges and getting high to become numb is likely to trigger powerful emotions.
The most difficult part of this book to read for this reviewer is the period of his life when he starts to breakdown. The vivid descriptions of the onset of panic attacks and depression – his destructive attempts to control the emotional disintegration with increasing amounts of alcohol – the people who help him to help himself. There is a moment in this story that stopped me in my tracks – gut-wrenching truth – As Cron is finishing up a session with a psychologist he asks, “What is happening to me?” The psychologist thoughtfully replies, “You’re waking up.”
Cron honors the story of his life in Jesus, The CIA, My Father and Me. He honors the boy he was in all his beauty, innocence, and confusion. He honors his youthful attempts to grow up, his years of juggling identities – the drinker and the altar boy. And he honors the man who overwhelmed by his history has the courage to seek help and come out successfully on the other side.