I recently received a free eBook review copy of Phil Callaway’s To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie (phew – long title!) from Blogging for Books, a website owned by Waterbrook Multnomah, yet another Christian publisher. I DO have one Jewish book here waiting to review, I promise!
Anyway, I chose this book – after The Jesus Inquest, my last, serious book review read - because it looked like one of the more humourous offerings on their site and I needed something light and fun to tide me over during a library dry spell.
The book was indeed light and extremely readable. I’m sure I’ve ranted here before about my impatience with books where the author takes on a project for one year and then writes a book about how changed / inspired / wonderful / awesome / super-duper / incredible / strange his/her life has become as a result.
I was worried that the book would be something like the Jim Carrey movie “Liar, Liar,” where the author would be unable to lie even in situations where lying is appropriate and, indeed, the more honest thing to do. I was relieved to discover that the book is NOT about extreme truth-telling, despite occasionally funny moments where old friends ask him to tell the whole truth about long-forgotten incidents – and money loans. I’d say the slightly more nuanced theme of the book is becoming more careful with your words, and the rewards you will reap in your life as a result.
It’s a tender theme that comes across well in places throughout the book. Unfortunately, though Callaway’s writing is crisp and lively, there are many other conflicting themes that ultimately get in the way of its deeper, spiritual message. It’s as if he is unable to be genuine for longer than a single moment, pausing to reflect at the end of the chapter, before he believes the hilarity and slapstick must begin anew. This may make him popular as a speaker and author, but it doesn’t lend the book a great deal of depth.
If you are looking for a serious resource that will steer you into a lifestyle of guarding your tongue (as it’s referred to in Jewish tradition), there are many better books that come to mind, including former Torontonian Lori Palatnik’s Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It from Your Life and Transform Your Soul.
On the other hand, this may be a helpful book for Christians who are disillusioned with how they see their religion practiced in mainstream churches. With its friendly humour, gentle Canadianisms and real-life anecdotes, this may well be a helpful book. Anyone looking for a book that underscores the fact that, however flawed believing Christians can be (in small and sometimes silly ways), they are still working to live meaningful lives of faith, may well find To Be Perfectly Honest, and Callaway’s other books very inspirational indeed.