I was very conflicted before writing this review. There was so much that I loved about Bryan Clay's story but then there was so much that turned me off or made me question the validity of things that I can't give it a stellar review. Overall, Bryan Clay is a loving husband and father, a remarkable athlete, Olympic champion and Christian man who deserves to be greatly respected for his achievements in a rarely recognized sport, the decathlon.
I struggled with finding deep sympathy for Bryan when he was describing his early childhood and his childhood troubles. I did feel bad for him as a kid but I didn't feel the pain and the heartache and struggle that he seemed to be trying to portray. I found myself reading about a kid whose parents, although both great and loving parents, fought with each other and ultimately divorced. His father maintained a relationship with his children, his mother remained devoted to her children and her religion and his extended family ran their own business and provided love and support for him. Bryan had some anger issues as a child because he was mad over his parent's divorce and was mad that he wasn't able to do everything he wanted to do. It came across more like a spoiled child acting out with constant tantrums than it did a child with a horrible upbringing who had to fight and work his way out of a horrific situation. I simply did not connect with the terrible upbringing it seems he was trying to describe. I also found myself annoyed with Bryan while he was describing the moment when his life was shattered during his time at college. The book sets up this big moment when his life is shattered, his world falls apart and he finds himself in the depths of despair and in reality it's not that huge of a crisis. He finds out on a Friday that an ex-girlfriend, with whom he had briefly fooled around but not actually had sex, had an STD and he couldn't see the campus doctor until Monday. He spends all weekend worried that he might have contracted something and then finds out on Monday that he is clean. Sure, I can understand how the situation would have been stressful and worrisome for a few days but I wouldn't consider it to be a moment when my entire life fell apart. That would have come after I had results which were not the ones I wanted. There were definite moments when I groaned at the over-dramatics of some situations.
I did find myself building a new respect for decathletes. I had no idea that their sport was so intense. I enjoy reading books about sports and this is a sport that was new to me. I had a friend in high school who used to pole vault on our track team but that was the extent of my experience, or knowledge, of any track events. This was definitely an interesting sports book and I found myself very intrigued with Bryan's story. I would have enjoyed this book much more if the exaggerated dramatics of his childhood had been left out and instead it focused on his path to the Olympics and his decathlon achievements. It was truly a great autobiography and Bryan Clay has every right to be proud of his hard work, records, achievements and medals. I actually had to Google him after reading his book to look at pictures, read more about his records, and find out the results of his goal to medal again in the 2012 Olympics as I did not hear anything about him during the Olympics this season. I won't spoil those results for you, if you are interested in Bryan's athletic career (and you should be) you can search for the results yourself.
Bryan Clay's struggle with his Christian faith, ultimate acceptance of the Lord, and relationship with God are a very dominate theme throughout his book and for anyone who shares the Christian faith this will be a good read. I liked how honestly Bryan discussed his relationship with God. He admits his struggles, his sins, his doubts, his deliberate rejections of Christian thoughts and behaviors, and how he ultimately surrendered to God. Bryan admits to the times when he would be angry with God and how he eventually realized all he could do was his best and trust that God would make it good enough. I liked reading about his journey with his faith. It can be overwhelming for anyone who does not share the Christian faith and at times his faith overshadows his athletic achievements. I also did not like the implications that God was sending his mother visions of Bryan's future. I cannot say whether or not that truly happened or if she simply had strong faith that her son would accomplish his goals but I felt that there were times when Bryan's book was almost saying that if you have a strong relationship with God that God will send you visions of your goals and that your life will be beautiful, easy, and blessed. God is good but does not guarantee that our lives will be without struggle. There were a few odd moments for me.
As a whole I liked Redemption however I would have preferred it focused less on his childhood and less on exaggerated drama. Bryan Clay is an amazing athlete with an incredible athletic story. He is a two-time Olympic medalist, has won multiple World and National Championships and deserves to be recognized for his achievements. I loved the focus on his accomplishments and would have preferred it if the story had stayed on his athletic career.