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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
A Walk Through the Wilderness: One Man’s Journey from Faith to Fundamentalism to Atheism by Dan Conger is the intensely personal journey of the author, caught up in a fundamentalist Christian cult in his younger days, and his journey through the collapse of the cult and onward to happiness as a husband and father, embracing the concepts of atheism. Dan Conger was your typical, all-American boy-next-door from a middle-class family who loved the outdoors, skiing, and hiking and was brought up with a strong Christian faith but with an enquiring mind that was constantly seeking more. A near-death experience on a mountainside near his home convinces Dan that God has saved him for something special in life and when he travels far away from home to attend college, he is ripe and ready for the fundamentalist cult’s brotherhood that will ensnare him for the next decade. When the cult invariably collapses under the weight of the leaders’ personal scandals, Dan finally finds his soulmate in Chanthy and he believes his life has, at last, found direction and purpose. But as infertility dogs the couple’s desperate attempts to start a family, Dan and Chanthy must face some tough decisions and re-evaluate their faith in a loving deity.
A Walk Through the Wilderness is a powerful testament to the ease with which people can be sucked into fundamentalism by a powerful and charismatic leadership. Author Dan Conger’s journey is one that any one of us could have ended up undertaking had circumstances been different in our lives. Dan’s desire to fit in and to be loved and recognized is a powerful trait inherent in all human beings and provides fertile soil for those seeking to plant seeds of any religion or quasi-religious philosophy. The author did a superb job of drawing the reader into his own headspace and allowing us to identify closely with his feelings. No doubt many readers will have experienced the fear, uncertainty, and intense desire to be accepted and be part of something larger than oneself, especially that first time we leave the family home and venture into the big, wide world on our own. This is a book that not only takes us along on Dan’s journey but also exposes the dangers and weaknesses we may find along the way on our own journeys. I particularly enjoyed the section on infertility which I think is a far greater problem for many couples than most people realize. The reader will sympathize with Dan and Chanthy over the overt and covert racism that they experienced as a mixed-race couple. One can only imagine how hard it will have been for Chanthy as an Asian-American during these past two years. This is a fantastic read about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and I can highly recommend it.