the only road north: 9000 miles of dirt and dreams, by erik mirandette.
when i was a junior higher, i read a book many christian boys read at the time: bruchko, by bruce olsen. it was (and still is) the true, autobiographical story of a teenage boy who wanted to change the world, and took off as a missionary to some unreached tribe. it’s full of peril and adventure and gripped me like no book had done before.
erik mirandette’s book is that kind of book — for boys of all ages (including 44).
the only road north is erik’s autobiographical story of leaving the airforce academy to find himself in africa, on a three-pronged adventure that would change everything. everything. his first year was in northwest africa, near spain. during this period, he has a come-to-jesus spiritual awakening of sorts and is thrust into a world of “if i don’t do this, no one will” terror, humanitarianism and salvation. sensing he needed to understand africa more, the second part is erik, his younger brother, and his best friend’s motorcycle trip from cape town, south africa, to ethiopia, through 9000 miles of fear, adventure, wild animals, life-threatening experiences, personal connections, spiritual reflections, motorcycle maintenance, love and friendship.
erik’s slightly unpolished “not a professional author” writing style totally works, as it brings an urgent sense of realism to the already true story.
then all hell breaks loose. after their trip is over (this isn’t a spoiler, as this was all over the news when it happened, and is revealed in the first chapter of the book), erik and his brother and their friends (a 4th guy has joined them at this point) are sightseeing and walking around on one of their last days prior to heading home to the states when a suicide bomber explodes a bomb right in the middle of their foursome. eriks’ brother dies. erik almost dies. the ensuing months are filled with pain of every kind, questions and doubts, and the shocking kind of spiritual and emotional honesty one almost never finds in a christian book. the end isn’t pretty and tidy. there’s only the slightest upturn toward hope — just enough to keep the readers from wishing we hadn’t read the book.
no, it’s not only for manly men. but it is a rare sweet-spot book for guys of all ages — about 14 on up, with the perfection-point at about 16 – 26.
kudos to my parent company, zondervan, for publishing something like this without killing it with sweetness and resolve.