Book Review: Fearless

downloadWhen Navy SEAL Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready: In a letter to his children, not meant to be seen unless the worst happened, he wrote, “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this earth, because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me.”

This is how Fearless begins. The story is about a cocaine-addict-turned-Christian-warrior who lived in overdrive. Now I know the special forces are not everyone’s cup of tea, but this book is about so much more than that.

Adam Brown was one of the elite, a member of SEAL Team SIX, the counterterrorism unit that has the capture of Osama bin Laden attached to its name. Brown was a man with a history of addiction and all that accompanies it – theft and ruined relationships and devastation. Most important of all, Brown was a man who had experienced grace and forgiveness through a relationship with Jesus Christ. His story, told by Eric Blehm, established itself on The New York Times list of bestsellers.

The story tracks Brown through his childhood then into the Navy, through bootcamps, and assorted other training, and eventually, through deployment in South America, Afghanistan and Iraq. But there is a thread of narrative describing his brutal battle with addiction to crack cocaine, an addiction that followed him and haunted him even years after he had been through recovery. We also read of how he came to faith, giving his life in service to Jesus Christ. One also sees how God used his struggle with drugs to save his parents and bring them into the Lord’s service.

Brown’s life came to an end on March 17, 2010, the day he was gunned down in the mountains of Afghanistan, losing his life in service to his country while destroying a dangerous terrorist cell.

Eric Blehm has written a potent book in Fearless. It is well-written, easy to read book describing an intriguing story of a captivating individual. Brown was quirky, with an impossibly high pain threshhold. He was one of those people who gave 110% to everything he did, nothing in moderation.

It is also my opinion that this book will appeal to both men and women. Though it has a reasonable amount of military action, something I really enjoy, but so much of what SEAL Team SIX did is still classified that Blehm has had to focus less on missions and more on the rich cast of characters that always surrounded Brown. This makes it a character-driven book led by Brown but pausing as well to introduce other fascinating people.

Most wonderfully this is a story about redemption, the story of an underdog overcoming obstacles, one who had learned to cast off the utter selfishness of addiction so he could love and serve others. He was able to do this only after encountering the God who is so much stronger and more powerful than the addiction that had gripped him for so many years.

brownfamily1There is a slight weakness in the book, and that is its grasp of Christianity. Brown and his family are Christians, but the faith the author describes is more about platitudes (“Adam is watching us from heaven and smiling…”) than the beautiful depths of the Christian faith. I do not doubt that Brown was saved, however it is always my hope to see Christianity described better than “Jesus has a plan for my life”. Perhaps this is because Eric Blehm is not a Christian (saying in the Afterword that he has not opened a Bible in twenty-five years), so perhaps he just does not understand what Christians are telling him about their faith. Furthermore, often after the conversion of Brown, the book tends to lean towards a moralistic explanation of his faith. His drive for fighting addiction is guilt for letting God down, as opposed to freedom because of what Christ has done. Any none Christian reading the book will come out with a warped view of the gospel and salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ. It also often runs the risk of confusing the USA military forces with God’s forces, and making Christianity something of a political thing.  In reading Fearless you will encounter a genuine conversion story, but you will not encounter a great depth of truth beyond that. It’s a tad disappointing in that regard.

This book is emotional, and can be quiet intense. There were times when I could put it down easily, and other times when I wanted to weep – predominantly at the end. The author said it best in his afterword with this quote:

Even with the knowledge that Adam truly was ready — body and soul — to give up his life in the line of duty, the final chapters of this book were heartrending to write. I knew what was coming, but I hoped for a different outcome… somehow.

I heartily recommend it to you, bearing in mind some of the issues I raised. Read it and discover something of humanitarianism in war, the horror of addiction, the family life of the U.S military, the power of the cross to change a life, the dedication and grit of elite fighting forces and the intrigue and comedy of an enthusiastic live-every-moment-man.

Note: There is some rough language in the book – it is the military after all. However it is nothing to extreme.

 

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