Matthew Paul Turner's latest book, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost is a very enjoyable followup to Churched, his previous memoir about growing up in and eventually out of fundamentalist Christianity.
This book surprised me a bit. I was expecting a standard memoir, where Turner tells the story of a certain portion of his life, covering all the major events in that period and more or less allowing the reader to take whatever themes from it they will. While Hear No Evil generally fits into this category- it begins when Turner is a teenager and ends in the present day- the narrative jumps around a bit. Conversations with friends pause to show flashbacks. Major events of Turner's life, such as meeting and marrying his wife, Jessica, the birth of his son, Elias Jude, and what are undoubtedly many interesting anecdotes about his time as a student at Belmont University, manager of a Christian coffee shop, and editor of CCM Magazine, are left out.
This may sound like criticism, but it's not. The fact that Hear No Evil doesn't follow the standard linear memoir format is what makes it stand out from the plethora of enjoyable memoirs by gifted storytellers out there. These episodes in Turner's life serve as vignettes to chart the emergence of Turner's understanding of the relationship between religious faith and popular culture, specifically "secular" music. Hear No Evil is a literary version of a concept album: someone who comes to it expecting the standard fare may not get it, but will probably find something to enjoy nonetheless.
Sidenote: if this is a concept album, what happens if I read it backwards while I'm watching the Wizard of Oz?
Regardless of what you're looking for, you're going to find something to like about Hear No Evil. Matthew Paul Turner is an excellent storyteller. His love and compassion for all the people he writes about is clearly evident, even when he's describing things that made him mad or frustrated him at the time.
Some highlight include: a group of Pentecostals loudly praying over him at a restaurant for deliverance from his acid-reflux disease, all the while trying to hold back a massive belch; buying and throwing away an Amy Grant album several times because of the guilt over its supposed "ungodliness"; and the heartbreaking story of his publisher at CCM rewriting an interview with Amy Grant to make her apologize for getting a divorce.
His somewhat sarcastic (some might use the word "snarky") sense of humor is only off-putting to those who take themselves way too seriously, and these are the folks who are in the greatest need of what Matthew Paul Turner has to offer. The kind of Christianity he describes is genuine, full of hope and free from fear and judgment. The church would be a much better place if more people understood Jesus the way Matthew Paul Turner does.
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Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. The opinions expressed in this review, however, are my own.