*Note: This is my first review…ever. So I apologize if I seem a bit absent minded. Also, I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.*
When I heard that Christopher Hitchens, the man known to vocally rip the so called “heroes” of faith such as Mother Teresa and Jerry Falwell, admitted to being close friends with the author, an Evangelical Christian named Larry Taunton, I made it my mission to find the proof towards their seemingly unlikely bond for each other. However, they wouldn’t come to terms with a few “certain” issues about faith (except their shared views towards Islam). Starting from his post and a joint interview, which was posted on the CNN Religion Blog a few days after Hitchens’ death, I looked far and wide, with the help of Google, to learn more about their unlikely rapport. All to fulfill my desire to know what the power of friendship can do to the most unlikely of characters.
Link to his CNN post:
Since then, like many journeys to find the hidden treasures that very few know about, I was able to uncover a few gems. YouTube videos showcasing that Taunton, who initially, according to the book, was antagonized by fans of the Hitch for his religiosity, wasn’t bluffing about being close friends. There is proof all around YouTube showcasing their comraderies. Just type in “Christopher Hitchens Larry Taunton” and all of the links provided are merely the first few videos that I happened to post on this review. But when I discovered that an actual book was coming out detailing Taunton’s bromance with Hitchens, who was known to have his atheist companionships with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, Lawrence Krauss, and other like-minded individuals, I preordered the book without hesitation. Fueled by the expectation that I would finally know more about what those two did during Hitchens’ final years.
The first half of the book starts off with a general overview of Hitchens’ journey towards unbelief starting from his rocky boarding school days, his rise to prominence in Oxford, and as a controversial contrarian who broke ties with the left due to his stances a few topics. I learned quite a bit towards Hitchens and his envious journey to the top. Hitchens’ mother did mention that he was bound to become a member of the upper class. And ultimately, he did. All on his own terms.
Taunton does add in a few of his opinions towards his view towards Atheism and how such views support his foundation for Christian belief. (To avoid sparking any debates concerning my thoughts on his words, this is as far as I’ll go.)
Then came to the last half of the book. The section that I was eagerly anticipating since ordering it online. The day when Taunton meets the Hitch. It’s interesting to note that while reading this section, Taunton reuses some of the lines of his first encounter from the CNN post over here. He even uses the same description in his podcast featuring the very interview recorded on that day. On the acknowledgements, Taunton mentioned that the task of writing a book takes years to complete. So I’m guessing that the idea for this book was on his mind on the day of his closest companions died.
Link of their discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obycPvu5fro
The book then fast forwards to a few months after the discovery of the same disease that killed his father: stage four cancer of the esophagus. Upholding his commitment for an upcoming debate in Taunton’s home state, Alabama, the two buddies undertake on a road trip. During this section I was filled with joy and laughed out loud between witty banter and eccentric quirks shared between the two. I could easily imagine such events occurring between my friends during a road trip. A few months later, another road trip, this time on the beautiful mountain state of Montana, travelling to Yellowstone National Park, proceeding yet another debate between the two in Billings, Montana.
Link of their trip to Yellowstone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n85Sjh0r7s
It was here where Hitchens, in front of a camera crew for a local news outlet, spoke his true feelings about Taunton: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” There is no denying that there was a special connection between the two master debaters. That their friendship, given to the dying Hitchens so late in his life, was one that allowed him to reflect on all of his years to begin reconsidering the validity of the foundation in which Taunton bases his life’s works upon.
Hitchens jokes that by saying it on camera, there’s now video evidence to prove his words.
Link of the news report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xorMPrHrzNU
Needless to say, not only was I satisfied with the content living up to my expectations, it provided me with a newly found worldview that I hope would satisfy my journey towards self-enlightenment. I loved how Taunton wasn’t depreciative towards his death compared to many of his Christian contemporaries and made sure that the book was focused towards his personal views of the Hitchens’ journey home. Some might be thrown off by Taunton’s views towards his Christianity but then again, a number of believers were big fans of Hitchens despite his obvious thoughts against what they believed in. As I closed the Kindle app (I bought this as an E-book), I took a deep sigh of relief and patted myself on the back. It was sixteen dollars’ worth spent.
Five stars out of five.