Stumbling on Open Ground: A Book Review

Grace Stories are the Best Stories
January 25, 2013
Memos from N.T. Wright and Paul Tripp
February 4, 2013


“Dealing with cancer is not as linear as most books describe the ordeal…It is that in-between place that drives a person crazy—a between-the-cracks spot that everyone can identify with, whether they are suffering cancer or not,” (p. 97). I had to nod and felt like I nodded often as I read Stumbling on Open Ground by Ken Mansfield.


Now, reading a book also depends upon your own timing and individual circumstances and for whatever reason, I had this book in my hand in a week where my dad received some challenging health news and my mom was in the ER for chest pains. Needless to say, I have been awakened and receptive as Mansfield writes, “Needles are bad, orifice-probing exams are uncomfortable, hospital food is less than exotic, grumpy nurses are a special kind of pain, complications and drug reactions are just plain awful, but there is something much more irritating. It is the inner exam rooms and the waiting time spent there,” (p. 159).

Mansfield’s testimony of faith in the midst of cancer that recalls his music business days of working with the Beatles, grieving John Lennon’s death, and receiving horrible medical news from the doctor more than once is good company in a life in which we often find ourselves in a waiting room of one kind or another. The book is divided in to two parts, both dealing with geographical space. We find ourselves eavesdropping on Mansfield by the ocean and then near wine country in the mountains of California. And this peculiar focus on space oddly grounds the book in our human experience. After all, when we’re told we have cancer, we never forget where we are and we begin to look at time and space differently.

Some books dealing with cancer and tragedy point us to the right verses and to the correct answers, but at the end of the day, they don’t feel very helpful. They almost feel like we’re being scolded if we don’t say the ‘proper’ things. Mansfield, though, tells us his story and is pretty good at it and in doing so, we enter in to not only his world for a while, but a world which is uncomfortably real and one that demonstrates one of the beautiful things of the Christian faith—namely that it dares to root itself in human stories.



I received a copy of this from Thomas Nelson in return for my honest review. The thoughts here are solely my own.

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