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"When I first discovered the grainy picture in my mother's desk--me as a towheaded two year old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat--I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. The boy was be "When I first discovered the grainy picture in my mother's desk--me as a towheaded two year old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat--I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. The boy was beckoning me to join him on a voyage through the harrowing straits of memory. He was gambling that if we survived the passage, we might discover an ocean where the past would become the wind at our back rather than a driving gale to the nose of our boat. This book is the record of that voyage." When he was sixteen years old, Ian Morgan Cron was told about his father's clandestine work with the CIA. This astonishing revelation, coupled with his father's dark struggles with chronic alcoholism and depression, upended the world of a boy struggling to become a man. Decades later, as he faces his own personal demons, Ian realizes the only way to find peace is to voyage back through a painful childhood marked by extremes--privilege and poverty, violence and tenderness, truth and deceit--that he's spent years trying to escape. In this surprisingly funny and forgiving memoir, Ian reminds us that no matter how different the pieces may be, in the end we are all cut from the same cloth, stitched by faith into an exquisite quilt of grace.


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"When I first discovered the grainy picture in my mother's desk--me as a towheaded two year old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat--I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. The boy was be "When I first discovered the grainy picture in my mother's desk--me as a towheaded two year old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat--I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. The boy was beckoning me to join him on a voyage through the harrowing straits of memory. He was gambling that if we survived the passage, we might discover an ocean where the past would become the wind at our back rather than a driving gale to the nose of our boat. This book is the record of that voyage." When he was sixteen years old, Ian Morgan Cron was told about his father's clandestine work with the CIA. This astonishing revelation, coupled with his father's dark struggles with chronic alcoholism and depression, upended the world of a boy struggling to become a man. Decades later, as he faces his own personal demons, Ian realizes the only way to find peace is to voyage back through a painful childhood marked by extremes--privilege and poverty, violence and tenderness, truth and deceit--that he's spent years trying to escape. In this surprisingly funny and forgiving memoir, Ian reminds us that no matter how different the pieces may be, in the end we are all cut from the same cloth, stitched by faith into an exquisite quilt of grace.

30 review for Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob Carlton

    You know, there are those books you read and quickly can not recall. There are those books that give you an stray thought or two. And then there are books that get under your skin and transform the way you look at things. This is one of the third kind. This book is powerful, at times even overwhelming. You can not read this book and approach fatherhood or the Eucharist the same way again. You can not read this book and think of Christianity the same way. This book will change you. Cron's story o You know, there are those books you read and quickly can not recall. There are those books that give you an stray thought or two. And then there are books that get under your skin and transform the way you look at things. This is one of the third kind. This book is powerful, at times even overwhelming. You can not read this book and approach fatherhood or the Eucharist the same way again. You can not read this book and think of Christianity the same way. This book will change you. Cron's story of growing up with a father larger - and smaller - than life is enthralling and heartbreaking. The secrets of the CIA and of alcoholism mix together in stories shared in a confessional whisper. Weaved throughout is a sense of just how many cracks there are in our mosaics, with a grounding in the absurdity of the author's life. Passionate--open hearted--piercingly intelligent--earthy--occasionally profane--absolutely unconventional--Ian's raw story of his own life pulled me along to its hopeful conclusion. What an extraordinary memoir - an exquisitely written story of a life that is fascinating, devastating and ultimately truly redemptive.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    This account of a boy's childhood blasted by a father's alcoholism and secret life is so lyrical you can almost forget how horrible it was in the living of it. Ian Morgan Cron is a gifted writer who seamlessly weaves together the conflicting emotions and the inner turmoil of this kind of upbringing. Surprisingly, a wry humor leavens Mr. Cron's relentless tale of sorrow. A few hints of an idyllic boyhood that could have been find their way into the narrative. In particular, I loved the scene in wh This account of a boy's childhood blasted by a father's alcoholism and secret life is so lyrical you can almost forget how horrible it was in the living of it. Ian Morgan Cron is a gifted writer who seamlessly weaves together the conflicting emotions and the inner turmoil of this kind of upbringing. Surprisingly, a wry humor leavens Mr. Cron's relentless tale of sorrow. A few hints of an idyllic boyhood that could have been find their way into the narrative. In particular, I loved the scene in which the author makes creative use of a stash of emergency flares, thus increasing his social capital among the neighborhood toughs. "None of us would ever be so beautifully eleven years old again," he writes. These moments of relief keep the reader from being utterly crushed by the gargantuan presence of the mean, angry drunk of a father who terrorizes his family to the point of spitting on them and beating them. No less culpable is Mr. Cron's glamorous but frequently absent mother, who finds surprising but necessary success in the working world, yet ultimately fails to protect her children from the wrath of her alcoholic husband. Mr. Cron's prose is arresting in its beauty. Of the many passages I could quote, one is a scene in which a friend gently confronts Mr. Cron with his growing alcohol problem and then comforts him as he weeps: "There are acts of love so subtle and delicate that the sweep of their beauty goes unseen. I know of none more miraculous and brave than that of a seventeen-year-old boy coming to his friend's side to take his tear-soaked face to his breast." I was disappointed that this lyricism seems to disappear in the last few chapters of the book. Once the author's crisis is past, he seems eager to imprint the reader with his present near-perfect life as an Episcopal priest and doting father. The writing becomes more pedestrian as the clichés pile up and his conversation begins to include words like "freaking" and "big brass balls." (But I guess there's nothing like having kids for forcing unimaginable words out of your mouth: "No guns at the table!" "We're gonna annihilate the other team, right?!?") He entirely skips over his journey out of alcoholism and into faith. In fact, although Jesus is given top billing in the book's title, he makes rare appearances in the book, and one that particularly startled me. On the last page of the book, the author places himself squarely in the corner of Rob Bell (Love Wins) and in a few sentences seems able to ease his conflicted self with a confusing and simplistic resolution. But I never argue with a person's experience, just assign it some distance if I can't go along with it. I hope Mr. Cron writes again in more depth about his faith journey. Perhaps then this last page will make more sense to me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Hyatt

    I've read the reviews for this book - they were what made me want to read it in the first place. I seriously don't see how I am reading the same book as all of these people, because the very things that everyone praises are the things that I think are worst about this book. Nothing about this book is unique. It's an overgrown blog entry, another hipster Christian book trying to be edgy with pop culture references that will quickly become obsolete and disjointed childhood memories without an overa I've read the reviews for this book - they were what made me want to read it in the first place. I seriously don't see how I am reading the same book as all of these people, because the very things that everyone praises are the things that I think are worst about this book. Nothing about this book is unique. It's an overgrown blog entry, another hipster Christian book trying to be edgy with pop culture references that will quickly become obsolete and disjointed childhood memories without an overarching theme. The writing doesn't flow well or draw the reader into the story - there have been a few moments that felt they could have really shone with some more editing and polishing, but they were scattered between hodge podge and disconnected anecdotes, written in such a jaded and "trying to be funny" tone that it was hard to appreciate them. Instead of describing events or feelings the author refers to movie titles in italics, and sets them out in very clear simile ("It was LIKE Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was LIKE Pineapple Express. It was LIKE Lord of the Flies.") After a while, it becomes jarring and repetitive. The stories are also interspersed with stream-of-consciousness rambling that adds nothing to the book. It isn't cute or quirky or ~random~, it's extremely distracting. I would complain about this book being like a rip off of Donald Miller's endless literary catalog of daddy issues, except I really haven't felt so far that this book was even about the author's father. So far I've barely seen him - or, for that matter, seen Jesus or the CIA. I hear some things about the father, but he is one-dimensional and removed, not painfully removed as an absent father but just irrelevant and peripheral. The book centers more on a random assortment of the author's experiences, which may or may not be true, and uses other people as the backdrop for the author's mundane and cliche thoughts and experiences. The treatment of other characters is disheartening as well as the author seems to take on a really unflattering jaded tone at times. I think my strong aversion to this book is born out of the fact that I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be a memoir that charmed me, that drew me in and made my own life and experiences seem bigger as a result. Girl Meets God: A Memoir did this beautifully, and I was entranced by A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. This book has none of their charm or light, but neither does it have any of the dark interest of truly horrific childhood memoirs (A Stolen Life, anyone?) Very disappointing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me is alternately funny, touching and instructive. My husband picked it up at the church book store, in part because Father Cron is our favorite celebrant to lead the portion of the liturgy where we sing to begin communion (this is a priest with a good voice, people). I found his memoir as easy to read as his voice is easy to hear. It didn't hurt anything that his story is so close to my own (and yet so very different). Like me, Cron is the child of an alcoholic. Un Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me is alternately funny, touching and instructive. My husband picked it up at the church book store, in part because Father Cron is our favorite celebrant to lead the portion of the liturgy where we sing to begin communion (this is a priest with a good voice, people). I found his memoir as easy to read as his voice is easy to hear. It didn't hurt anything that his story is so close to my own (and yet so very different). Like me, Cron is the child of an alcoholic. Unlike me, he's managed to look at his story without flinching and is willing to share that journey via this memoir. For a book about a childhood that included some terrifying moments, the story is one of redemption, even when it feels like Jesus is absent. Cron's childhood spent in Catholic grade school was both illuminating (given that my husband is also a product of these schools) and entertaining. This isn't a book without a tinge of sadness. I appreciated that Cron didn't gloss over the fact that he felt like Jesus wasn't there for him during much of his childhood. I wrestle with this same idea and don't have the answers, either. Don't read this book thinking you'll read the last page the exact same person as when you started it. Do read it expecting to see how the lowest points in your own journey might have been pointing you to where you are today. Read it for the joy of the author's voice, which is authentic and vulnerable without over-sharing. Like Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, this book might make you think about your own story and its value. That alone makes it worth the time it will take you to read it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pamelabyoung

    Ian Morgan Cron is a masterful story teller. His writing style came across as if we were sharing life stories over a cup of coffee. Some parts were so hilarious that I read them aloud to my husband. When you read a book and can't wait to share a part of it with your loved ones, I think it qualifies as a good read. This is a book about learning to live a full life in spite of a difficult childhood, a story of the love and holiness of God, and the sacredness of sharing one's story, no matter how d Ian Morgan Cron is a masterful story teller. His writing style came across as if we were sharing life stories over a cup of coffee. Some parts were so hilarious that I read them aloud to my husband. When you read a book and can't wait to share a part of it with your loved ones, I think it qualifies as a good read. This is a book about learning to live a full life in spite of a difficult childhood, a story of the love and holiness of God, and the sacredness of sharing one's story, no matter how difficult it might have been. Perhaps because he learned to cope with tragedy in his life by using sarcasm and humor, the author's passive-aggressive nature rings true to this reader with similar coping skills. I am anxious to download his book about St. Francis, but it is not available on Kindle until May 7. I am definitely a fan.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lien Horn

    Another great piece of Christian memoir. Truly fantastic but missing something; I can't quite put my finger on what.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Despite the mention of the CIA in the title, it’s not the primary focus of the book. Ian didn’t know his dad was involved with the CIA until his mid-teens. There had been odd “business trips” when he had thought his father was out of work, his mention of having met people (like President Ford) whom he would not likely have crossed paths with, etc., but the pieces didn’t come together until Cron’s teens. Cron grew up in England until his father’s work took the family back to the States, where the Despite the mention of the CIA in the title, it’s not the primary focus of the book. Ian didn’t know his dad was involved with the CIA until his mid-teens. There had been odd “business trips” when he had thought his father was out of work, his mention of having met people (like President Ford) whom he would not likely have crossed paths with, etc., but the pieces didn’t come together until Cron’s teens. Cron grew up in England until his father’s work took the family back to the States, where the family set down roots. Cron describes his Irish Catholic upbringing mostly humorously but with a few poignant moments as well. In fact, there is a humorous slant to much of Cron’s writing, but not in connection with his father’s alcoholism. The book focuses primarily on the effect Cron’s father’s alcoholism had on his life: the embarrassment, the anger, the missed concerts, the lack of good example and teaching, the bad example, the lack of relationship. “’Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.’ That’s what John Edward Pearce said. But what if your childhood was a train wreck? What if your memories of home are more akin to The Shining than The Waltons? It doesn’t matter. Home is not just a place; it’s a knowing in the soul, a vague premonition of a far-off country that we know exists but haven’t seen yet. Home is where we start, and whether we like it or not, our life is a race against time to come to terms with what was or wasn’t” (p.3). Ian went from trying to be a “good boy” to win his father’s approval, to trying to be a “bad boy” to get his attention. As happens all too often, he began following in his father’s footsteps with drinking, and then went further with drug experimentation. But the story is also one of redemption. Though tenderhearted towards spiritual things as a child, Ian felt God had let him down by not answering his prayers concerning his father, and he was highly resistant to any kind of Christian influence. But God brought him to the end of himself. Coming to believe was one step, but overcoming his own alcoholism took much longer, and facing and dealing with the buried emotions and the psychological effects of his relationship with his father took longer still. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I could identify with much that Ian wrote. Somehow I never had the thought that so many kids have that it must be all my fault. (I knew my dad’s problems were his own. I did learn to lay low and stay under the radar either when he was drinking or when he was angry, and to this day I have problems interacting when I think someone is angry. My first instinct is to retreat.) Some of the quotes that stood out to me: “Boys with fathers who, for whatever reason, keep their love undisclosed begin life without a center of gravity. They float like astronauts in space, hoping to find ballast and a patch of earth where they can plant their feet and make a life. Many of us who live without these gifts that only a father can bestow go through life banging from guardrail to guardrail, trying to determine why our fathers kept their love nameless, as if ashamed.” “My father’s psychological and emotional problems so consumed his visual field that he had trouble seeing anyone but himself , much less a lost, father-hungry kid.” The author definitely has a way with words, and the book is filled with many descriptive phrases. One disadvantage to listening to the audiobook rather than reading a paper or electronic version is that one can’t flip back through the pages, and I didn’t mark as many quotes as I should have (one can “bookmark” with an audiobook – but not while driving or cooking :) ). The writing seemed a little disjointed in some places, being more thematic than linear. But there is light humor as well as deep sadness, poignancy, beauty and grace. I think those of us who are more conservative need to be reminded that God sometimes uses seemingly unconventional ways and means to reach a person, and that we’re not all cookie cutter Christians. At one point the author says that many of the Christians he knew, I think in his college years, were fans of John McDowell and C. S. Lewis, but he could never get into them, because he didn’t want to parse God, he wanted to experience Him ecstatically. While I do agree that our Christianity needs to be experiential and not just academic (and I think that’s what he was trying to convey), I have a couple of problems with this line of thinking. For one, voices in our heads aren’t always trustworthy. For another, those men are hardly “just” academic, and many are ministered to by their writings and by thinking through the issues they address. The Bible has a lot to say about knowledge and doctrine. I’ve referenced this here many times before, but Peter had one of the most wonderful experiences possible when he saw Jesus transfigured before his eyes, yet he calls the Scripture (a more sure word of prophecy” – more sure than even that experience (II Peter 1:16-21). Although I think the book is a worthwhile read, I could not recommend it unreservedly. To me the humor slips into irreverence sometimes, there are a few instances of crudeness (jokes about men’s private parts), the theology was a little wonky in some places. I think this book would be especially good if you or someone within your sphere of influence has had an alcoholic parent or a strained relationship with one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Towley

    Books like Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts are the reason I love the Good Reads First Reads program so much. It's unlikely I would have picked this up if I hadn't received my free copy but it ended up being a surprisingly touching book. The synopsis at IndieBound reads: “An autobiography of Ian Morgan Cron, a clergyman in the Episcopal Church,” which is about as inaccurate as a synopsis can get while remaining technically accurate. Based on this description, Books like Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts are the reason I love the Good Reads First Reads program so much. It's unlikely I would have picked this up if I hadn't received my free copy but it ended up being a surprisingly touching book. The synopsis at IndieBound reads: “An autobiography of Ian Morgan Cron, a clergyman in the Episcopal Church,” which is about as inaccurate as a synopsis can get while remaining technically accurate. Based on this description, the blurb on the back of the book and the title, I thought I was going to be reading about a CIA agent and his son's religious journey. While both of those things made an appearance, they mainly served as background for the actual story, which revolved around the struggles of Mr. Cron's childhood. His father was indeed in the CIA, but the more relevant fact was that his father was a drunk. And not the amusing, jovial kind of drunk. He was a pass out on the floor at noon on a Tuesday kind of drunk, get violent with his kids while he was drinking kind of drunk and altogether mostly a dick drunk. Mr. Cron struggled with his father's disease and made a wide variety of attempts to earn his father's favor. First, he tried to get attention through acting out, then through becoming an overachiever. Thankfully he realized relatively early on that he was simply not on his father's radar and there was nothing he could do. I found the writing to be very fluid, if a bit simple. This was definitely a fast, straight forward read and the author got right to telling the story and stayed on a mostly linear path. There were a few passages that stuck out to me and that I could really relate to, such as his description of how different authors can affect you differently: Some authors were like boxers. They took me down slow, landing one left hook after another one inch under my rib cage. Other writers were more precise, like surgeons, cutting through flesh and bone until I was laid bare to myself. That said, I did have a few issues with the way it was written. First, there seemed to be an awful lot of pop culture jokes / references thrown in that were kind of jarring. I read another review that referred to some of them as dated, which I didn't find to be the case – but they were certainly references that will feel dated in 5 years. I felt that these references mostly fell a little flat and really just served to shorten the shelf life of the book. Based on the title of the book and what I'd read about it, I expected the spiritual journey to factor much more heavily into the story. Really though, the book basically noted that he attended a youth group in high school and become involved in the church later in life and then the last chapter got into some details about his beginnings with the church. There were a few other references here and there to growing up as a Catholic and his evolving feelings about faith but they were really few and far between. That said – I was actually really glad that it didn't focus heavily on his religious journey. I am a non-believer myself but, having grown up in the Catholic church, I do have have some interest in learning about other people's relationships to God and how they got there. I was glad that the religious aspect didn't play a very large role at all but I do feel that the title misrepresented that a bit. If someone is looking for a read that focuses on religion, this is not going to be it. There should probably be some reference in the title to the strong focus on alcoholism because I think there's an audience there who would really enjoy this book if they realized that it delved so deeply into the life of the child of an alcoholic. Overall I am definitely glad I read this book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend. I found Cron to write with a kind, honest and insightful voice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David A.

    I was predisposed to think Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron would be great. It was recommended to me by friends, coworkers, a vicar’s wife I met on retreat, even the editor who asked me to review it for Relevant Magazine's year-end best-of-2011 list. I picked up a humidity-soaked copy at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina in June, where the euphoria surrounding the book was palpable. I normally resist such mania. Anything that gets that many people so quickly in a lath I was predisposed to think Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron would be great. It was recommended to me by friends, coworkers, a vicar’s wife I met on retreat, even the editor who asked me to review it for Relevant Magazine's year-end best-of-2011 list. I picked up a humidity-soaked copy at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina in June, where the euphoria surrounding the book was palpable. I normally resist such mania. Anything that gets that many people so quickly in a lather must be putting something in their drinks first. That may be why I put off reading the book for six months. But it turns out everyone was right. Cron's book is a good memoir that, in the final fifty pages, turns great. Memoir is a tricky thing to write, trickier than it appears on the surface. You would think that anyone could do it; it seems like simply putting words to paper to tell the story of your life. Cron's memoir covers nearly half a century of life as he's known it, from his Irish Catholic childhood that splits time between Great Britain and New England, during which (no spoiler alert; it's in the book title) his dad works secretly for the CIA. His dad is also an alcoholic with diagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder that quickly caught up with his professional life and wreaked havoc on his home life. Plenty of grist for a sensational story, and to write a memoir based on it, given the zeitgeist, seems like a no-brainer. Ah, but while anyone can write down their story, it takes talent to write a memoir, to tell an intensely personal story that not only compels the reader forward without losing his or her interest (the line between personal and arcane is as fine as it is unforgiving) but universalizes the themes so that the readers can find themselves, and something beyond themselves, in the telling. This is the feat that Cron accomplishes, moving generally effortlessly between the ethereal and the earthy, the sublime and the silly, all in service to the task of finding a path to true--a spiritual and emotional equilibrium that, for the person, approaches a reconciled self. The book isn't perfect; Cron wears his fondness for (and debt to) writer and radio personality Jean Shepherd on his sleeve. Shepherd is a featured player in one of Cron's moments of epiphany, who was listening to Shepherd's radio program the night he told the story of a childhood friend whose tongue was frozen to a wintry flagpole. That scene was immortalized in Shepherd's short-story-turned-film A Christmas Story. It was Christmastime as I read Cron's book, and I had visited the house featured in the film A Christmas Story earlier in the year, so I may have been especially attuned to the writing style that Cron clearly emulates. But it's not a bad style to emulate, and besides, Cron's a good writer, so it's a generally pleasant homage. One of the major themes of the book is the Eucharist, which figures prominently in Cron's childhood story and comes full circle when he, as an Episcopal priest, celebrates the mass at the end of the book. The Eucharist is a sacrament, a dispensation of grace, something that every memoir ought to aspire to, in my opinion, and something that Cron manages to achieve here. He mixes humor and sadness like bread and wine, yielding a conversion narrative that rings true in ways that only emerge from the commingling of suffering and faith, of the altar and the therapist's couch, of the body and blood of Christ. We join Cron in his search for a safe home, a caring father, redemption from a deeply scarred past, even though his story is entirely unique; it is in fact through his unique story that his readers are graced with a fundamental truth of the universe: love always stoops, and faith always jumps.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    While I definitely felt there was a worth-while narrative being told, I didn't find much cohesion among the different elements that made up the narrative. While the author/narrator is very direct in letting the reader know the effect his father had on him (for better or worse), he never seemed to make an adequate comparison to his actions and his father's influence on those actions. Each chapter would tell a story from Ian's life, but very rarely would there be the corollary the title and premis While I definitely felt there was a worth-while narrative being told, I didn't find much cohesion among the different elements that made up the narrative. While the author/narrator is very direct in letting the reader know the effect his father had on him (for better or worse), he never seemed to make an adequate comparison to his actions and his father's influence on those actions. Each chapter would tell a story from Ian's life, but very rarely would there be the corollary the title and premise of the book promises. Each chapter seems to be "This is a time where I screwed up or where something went wrong, and it's my father's fault"; aside from the few chapters where Ian's father is directly involved in the story being told, we have no real connection between these events and his father. His father is a constant presence in the story, but as a reader we are never presented many solid facts as to why something is happening. The narrator presents it as a given, and this being a memoir (of sorts) that makes sense, but it limits the empathy we can give the character. His religious epiphanies also seem to fall flat because of this. Because he never illuminates the day to day struggle with his father, only the impact that this struggle had on him, his conversion (or reversion) to faith doesn't seem as dramatic to the reader as it must have felt for Ian. And while this is more of a personal preference, I feel that expounding on his father's connection to the CIA would have helped to illustrate his father's double life and aided in remedying the points I raised previously. But since the job at the CIA never takes on a large role in the narrative other than helping identify the type of man Ian's father is, I feel it's a wasted clarification. It could have been a huge aid in helping understand the situation, but was squandered. I also have a problem with the copious amounts of pop culture references in the memoir, most used as analogies. It dates the book and will make it more difficult to understand in the not-too-distant future. While I understand the references now, someone in ten to fifteen years may not. I do not think many of them are as timeless as the author believes. One exceptional standout of the memoir, however, is the chapter on the family trip to the quarry. It is a well told story, and the message being impressed is told subtly but very effectively. It fits well within it's context, and it's meaning is very much understood without much grandstanding or monologuing. It fits well, and was the most enjoyable part of the book for me. Overall the memoir is well-written, but failed to get me to empathize with the main character in an effective way. It reads more as an over-long witness at a church rally or retreat, but that message suffers because of that. Amputated from the emotion of that context, it's a book that fails to capitalize on the depth and emotion of it's main conflict, and the overall story and message being told suffers because of this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    The author begins his story using a child's eye view of life, creating multiple moments of laugh out loud funny observations. It reminded me of the very popular book, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes, Really Reflect Up" which has recently been reprinted for another generation of readers. These memoirs recount the horrors and confusion of growing up Catholic and attending a Catholic school. However, once the trauma of Catholic school has been addressed, the remaining three quarters of the book, expl The author begins his story using a child's eye view of life, creating multiple moments of laugh out loud funny observations. It reminded me of the very popular book, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes, Really Reflect Up" which has recently been reprinted for another generation of readers. These memoirs recount the horrors and confusion of growing up Catholic and attending a Catholic school. However, once the trauma of Catholic school has been addressed, the remaining three quarters of the book, explores the blisters inflicted from growing up in the deep, dark specter of alcoholism within the family. The loneliness, the lies and fear all become very real. Not only must Ian become a master at hiding from his father, for whom he grieves their lack of relationship but he greatly fears him. His insecurity spills into his life outside of home and his ability to function. Anyone who has spent time in Ala-Non or Adult Children of Alcoholics will see their own pain in this story. Alas, there is hope in these pages. While the CIA is just a passing part of the story (probably sold a few more copies by incorporating it into the title). The real story is how a young man uses drugs to cope with his fears and inadequacies only to come face to face with the truth that God loves him unconditionally. This translates into a very brief glimpse at his own recovery and his eventual career choice as a youth pastor, and eventually, an Anglican Priest. His expression of his spiritual encounters were simplistic and non-offensive. I felt that there was much more that wasn't expressed (perhaps, that was a personal choice or his publisher's suggestion)? Whatever the reason, I would have liked to read more about his transformation, rather than attempting to appeal to a wider audience. Mr. Cron's humor and skilled story telling will keep you reading until the last page.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This author is quite a storyteller. I think I felt every emotion known to mankind while reading this book. I loved the sense of humor shown throughout the book and thank God for it because without it, it could have been a real downer. There were times I wanted to cry, times I felt angry (I think mean spirited kids are dispicable) and times I wanted to applaud someone for his or her role in this man's life. I will definitely read other books by this author.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    4.5. .... because I shouldn't give every single book five stars? I listen to Ian's Typology podcast, and wasn't sure what to expect from a memoir "of sorts". His story is moving, heartbreaking, encouraging ... no family is exempt from some level of dysfunction, I suspect. We all want to be seen and to be loved. And we can never know too well that "love always stoops".

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    A painful story beautifully told in some of the most delcious prose I've read in a long time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Earnhardt

    Ian Cron owes me a new pen. I nearly ran one dry underlining his clever voice that fully allowed me to visualize his words and nod as I read them. I apologize in advance as I will be using (stealing) many of the phrases he coined in this book. His word play, puns, metaphors, and similes are outstanding and deserve to be retold. Well done, Ian.

  16. 5 out of 5

    lizzie

    'home is not just a place; it’s a knowing in the soul, a vague premonition of a far-off country that we know exists but haven’t seen yet.' • • • I felt this through the whole book. fascinating, heartbreaking, but colourfully and compellingly told.

  17. 4 out of 5

    jonny diane - Professional Wedding Officiant

    It was an ok book but I had to really make my self read it ... which defeats my purpose of reading ... Good in the beginning then rather boggy!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Lethal Combination: Astute Observations on Life's Poignant and Devastating Moments with a Generous Dollop of Wit and Tenderness Franz Kafka summed it up well when he said,"I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. . . . What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for Lethal Combination: Astute Observations on Life's Poignant and Devastating Moments with a Generous Dollop of Wit and Tenderness Franz Kafka summed it up well when he said,"I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. . . . What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe." In a nutshell, Ian's book took an axe to the frozen sea within me. I'd seen Ian's name on the Twitterverse, a couple weeks prior to attending Donald Miller's Storyline Conference in Portland earlier this month. Every year Miller gives away a new book to conference attendees. This year it was Ian's book "Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me." He had a brief Q&A with Ian before giving away his book. I was convinced that I was going to love this book purely based on this casual Q&A session. I don't know if it was Ian's nerves or just a quirky idiosyncrasy, but he had an endearing habit of putting his hand on the top of his head when he spoke. It made him resemble a fidgety antsy Yenta from the Bronx, in a charming sort of way. Think: Woody Allen meets Anne Lamott. Ian has an incredible ability to make astute observations on life's poignant and devastating moments with a generous dollop of wit and tenderness. The lethal combination is what did my heart in. Anne Lamott says, "I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness'and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine." Ian does exactly that. He shares his truth. He is concerned with real lives, human hearts and spiritual transformation. I had moments that unraveled my heart so deeply that I had to hit pause (audiobook) and (literally) clutch my heart even at the risk of looking like a lunatic on public transit. Not since Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years has a book wrecked me (in a good way) at *this* scale. Ian's writing has the incredible ability to take unexpected disarming tears and transition them into cry-giggles a second later. I'm also really looking forward to also reading his first book, "Chasing Francis." This book helped me identify the golden thread of God's unfinished business of grace in my own life. I just found out that Ian has been Selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program on his blog: [...] Former authors to be selected as part of the B&N program include Cormac McCarthy, Elizabeth Gilbert, Frank McCourt, Barbara Kingsolver, Yann Martel, Alice Sebold, Michael Pollan, Patricia Cornwell, Kathryn Stockett, and Khaled Hosseini. I can't say I'm surprised.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Coumbe

    I was attracted to the title and photo on the front of the book of a toddler in a lifeboat waving. Ian Morgan Cron explains the picture in the first chapter as being beckoned by his past self. Cron also warns the reader: "...I couldn't tell the whole truth about my childhood by rigidly sticking to the facts." Cron aptly concludes chapter 1 with: " This a record of my life as I remember it - but more importantly, as I felt it." Jesus, My Father The CIA and Me is a "memoir" about growing up with an I was attracted to the title and photo on the front of the book of a toddler in a lifeboat waving. Ian Morgan Cron explains the picture in the first chapter as being beckoned by his past self. Cron also warns the reader: "...I couldn't tell the whole truth about my childhood by rigidly sticking to the facts." Cron aptly concludes chapter 1 with: " This a record of my life as I remember it - but more importantly, as I felt it." Jesus, My Father The CIA and Me is a "memoir" about growing up with an alcoholic father who happens to be in the CIA. When Cron talks about his experience with an alcoholic father I found it rang true and was completely relatable. Many readers who grew up with alcoholism in their family will find Cron's compassionate look back into his childhood a welcome treat. With alcoholism so prevalent in families, Cron's account was completely believable. Ian's father had a hard time staying employed throughout Ian's childhood. Ian recounts living a charmed life in London and Greenwich,CT that bottomed out and then rose again. As I read about Cron's father being in "The Company" or CIA there is no way I could know what that could feel like. Cron does not get into what his father did specifically and maybe that mystery adds to the "distant alcoholic father" thing. At times, I questioned just how real is the CIA thing? But there was enough incidental evidence to quiet any doubts I had about Cron's dad being in the CIA. I found the CIA part of the book incredible but fascinating. But, when Ian delved into his feelings of wanting his father's love and approval I just cried. I totally understood that unmet desire as well as wanting to hear your father apologize for his bad behavior. Ian Morgan Cron's Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me is filled with humor and heart. I highly recommend this book to all. I received "Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me" through a reading program called Book Sneeze from Thomas Nelson Publishers and am not required to give a positive review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I have recently been introduced to the genre of Memoir books and find them fascinating! I love hearing about how people learn to take the life they find themselves in and not only reflect back on the past (with all the hurts and bruises) but move forward because or in spite of it. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me- A Memoir of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron is just such a story! He is so interesting to read, and such a good storyteller, that I read this book in just a few short sessions. Ian grew up I have recently been introduced to the genre of Memoir books and find them fascinating! I love hearing about how people learn to take the life they find themselves in and not only reflect back on the past (with all the hurts and bruises) but move forward because or in spite of it. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me- A Memoir of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron is just such a story! He is so interesting to read, and such a good storyteller, that I read this book in just a few short sessions. Ian grew up as the youngest child of three, with a wonderful sounding Nanny, a glamorous mother, and a secretive alcoholic father. His father also happens to be in the CIA at times and is what Ian calls later an “Anti-father” who disappoints with little silver lining of redemption. Ian attends Catholic Church as a young child, and learns only enough about Jesus to be disappointed in His seeming lack of apparent rescue from the hardships that are very real, and harder than anything I have ever faced. Ian has to learn how to handle that level of rejection from his father, and also his perceived rejection from God. This story is a redemption story. It is written by Christian (who is now an Episcopal Priest) but not cheesily so, and it is genuine, honest, and even entertaining. The author leaves plenty of room for people to discover faith on their own, so some reviewers might have comments against how open-ended some of references to faith are, but I think the Author is just leaving room for the especially battered and bruised, who might need an extra sensitive or unusual intervention from God. God can handle innocent irreverence and even an honest accusation from someone hurt. I admire how beautifully Ian tells his story. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tung

    Cron is an episcopal priest who struggled with his faith throughout his young life, particularly because of his alcoholic father. His memoir describes his childhood growing up with such a father, and how that affected both his faith and his psyche. This struggle was made more complicated by the fact that his father worked on-and-off for the CIA throughout his life, so there is this added layer of not knowing his father both because of his alcoholism and because of his secretive life that couldn’ Cron is an episcopal priest who struggled with his faith throughout his young life, particularly because of his alcoholic father. His memoir describes his childhood growing up with such a father, and how that affected both his faith and his psyche. This struggle was made more complicated by the fact that his father worked on-and-off for the CIA throughout his life, so there is this added layer of not knowing his father both because of his alcoholism and because of his secretive life that couldn’t be shared. As a believer, I love hearing people’s testimonies of how they came to Christianity, so my religious side wanted me to really like this book. But the book critic in me sees the many flaws of this memoir, so overall this book was a mixed experience for me. On one hand, there are moments throughout this book that moved me – especially his Young Life conversion experience, and his dealing with the grief (and for awhile, the lack thereof) of his father’s passing. On the other hand, the prose throughout this book is subpar. The paragraph and chapter structures were very predictable. The regular inclusion of metaphors in almost every paragraph came off too writer-workshop-y. There is nothing thematically that we don’t find in a hundred other memoirs: teen years spent in rebellion through drugs and alcohol, daddy issues, alcoholic parents – a ton of memoir cliches. My biggest criticism is that like many contemporary writers, Cron peppers his prose with allusions to pop culture that will become obsolete within a few years of this book. As an example, in one metaphor he makes an allusion to Captain Sullenberger, and in another he uses a simile that contains Rush Limbaugh, Miley Cyrus, and Bono (sigh). Some folks will find this manner of prose engaging, and so I imagine some will enjoy this memoir of faith. For me, it’s a recommended read, but barely.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Stump

    Homo Homini Lupus http://manisawolftomen.blogspot.com/ Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts tells the story of the author and of his strained relationship--if relationship it can be called--with his father. From the start Cron grabs the readers attention with pithy anecdotes and personal story that break up the main biographical arc of the narrative. The book moves through the life of the author in a number of stages, and even without their being separated and divided out by the a Homo Homini Lupus http://manisawolftomen.blogspot.com/ Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts tells the story of the author and of his strained relationship--if relationship it can be called--with his father. From the start Cron grabs the readers attention with pithy anecdotes and personal story that break up the main biographical arc of the narrative. The book moves through the life of the author in a number of stages, and even without their being separated and divided out by the author, there is a clear line or demarcation: life before first communion, first communion to first drink, from drinking to Christ, and from Christ to depression and back to Christ. The story is well written and structured each story within pulling the reader in and pushing the story arc forward. The story is in large part about the author's trouble childhood and his seeking after his own father's approval yet the story is not told in such a fashion that having had a happy and prosperous childhood one would feel left out. The story itself is as such universal like good Greek drama without being pedantic. There is a savor of humanity that can be found only in such tragedy and it is here that the book becomes like salt, seasoning and preserving. Moreover the narrative is reassuring to any honest reader who will see in the author's failings a flavor of their own, if only stronger; as the author finds his own redemption at the feet of Christ so then can any who would follow his life-line to its end. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have a special place in my heart for memoirs and this one did not disappoint. I have been listening to Ian Cron on his podcast about the Enneagram called Typology. I was so curious to hear more about his story and it is a sad one filled with heartache. What a delightful storyteller he is and I so enjoy his personality on his podcast and in his memoir.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trinity Rose

    Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me A memoir…of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron is one fantastic book. This is the second book by Ian and I think his best so far. The story is mainly about Ian’s life and how he survived an alcoholic father who showed little if any love to him and also how he became the same person without realizing it. This is an amazing story that held my attention through the whole book. It is a book that is full of despair, hopelessness, but also one of hope, peace and finally love. Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me A memoir…of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron is one fantastic book. This is the second book by Ian and I think his best so far. The story is mainly about Ian’s life and how he survived an alcoholic father who showed little if any love to him and also how he became the same person without realizing it. This is an amazing story that held my attention through the whole book. It is a book that is full of despair, hopelessness, but also one of hope, peace and finally love. When you grow up in a stable, Christian home you really don’t realize that so many children don’t have that privilege. Ian and his family didn’t really live, but survived life. He didn’t dare do anything to upset his father. All Ian wanted in his life growing up was love. That’s so true of everyone. In this book you go with Ian from very early childhood until he got married, had three children and finally became a priest. To me it was amazing that an alcoholic worked for the CIA, but Ian found out that alcoholics are good at lying and trying to cover up everything in their lives. So that would make him perfect. This is a very interesting story and is easy to read. I really recommend it. You will get so much out of it, if not to help yourself, then to be a help to others. It is a book to keep and give to someone who may need a lift or hand when things are going bad. Great read. Thank you for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy L. Campbell

    Note: Review copy provided by publisher. Cron's memoir, whether of sorts or not, is an honest admission of what it was like growing up with a secretive and emotionally absent alcoholic father. Throughout the narrative Cron struggles with trying to gain his father's acceptance, first through misbehaving and then through overachieving, in an attempt to gain the recognition and love his father was never capable of giving. In the meantime, he manages to earn a degree, find a wife, have his own strugg Note: Review copy provided by publisher. Cron's memoir, whether of sorts or not, is an honest admission of what it was like growing up with a secretive and emotionally absent alcoholic father. Throughout the narrative Cron struggles with trying to gain his father's acceptance, first through misbehaving and then through overachieving, in an attempt to gain the recognition and love his father was never capable of giving. In the meantime, he manages to earn a degree, find a wife, have his own struggles with alcoholism and drugs, and eventually find his way to acceptance, success, and God. The narrative is fairly simple and usually uplifting, with the dark moments being interlaced with silver linings. The only thing it suffers from is the author's attempt at being a little too uplifting with one too many punchlines and “humorous” asides thrown in. Additionally, Cron relies heavily on pop-culture references, some of which are quite dated, and even plays the crotchety old man with a few, “back in my day...” lines. Despite these weakness, which may be more to someone else's liking, Cron's memoir has a few brilliant moments worth observing and it's lack of heavy handed preaching was refreshing to someone of the churchgoing persuasion. Those looking for details about his father's CIA career, however, will be mostly disappointed as it was mostly brought up only as a means of pointing out how little he knew his father. By no means a bad read, but perhaps replacing CIA with Alcohol might have been a little less misleading. Two stars and a waffle.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristian Kilgore

    Cron is an excellent storyteller with a remarkable gift for using language to convey his tone. Cron's story is beautiful, but his yarn spinning makes this book hard to put down. i didn't know what to expect as I started it, perhaps an hair raising tale of espionage and near misses, or a life marked by patriotic sacrifice. What I found was a coming of age story that was painful, funny, and meaningful. This is not a deep dive into anything theological, it is a refreshing mix of just the right amou Cron is an excellent storyteller with a remarkable gift for using language to convey his tone. Cron's story is beautiful, but his yarn spinning makes this book hard to put down. i didn't know what to expect as I started it, perhaps an hair raising tale of espionage and near misses, or a life marked by patriotic sacrifice. What I found was a coming of age story that was painful, funny, and meaningful. This is not a deep dive into anything theological, it is a refreshing mix of just the right amounts of nostalgia, authenticity, self-awareness, and poignancy. You can hear Cron's deadpan sarcasm and some of the book is laugh out loud funny. As all good humor, his story is humorous in the powerful way that only the seedbed of difficulty can produce. Easy things are rarely funny, unless they go wrong. It is when someone can look around them and see the irony of the moment in the midst of heavy realities that nourishing humor is found. Cron does this quite well. I would highly recommend this for almost anyone. The story moves quickly, slows down in the right places, and leaves plenty of room for the reader to enter the story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Henk-Jan van der Klis

    An entertaining coming of age by the now Episcopal priest Ian Morgan Cron. Cron is honest about his adult lens to do his personal retrospective. Of course it’s part fiction and ‘a memoir….of sorts’. His Roman Catholic upbringing, earliest memories of his alcoholic father who worked for the CIA as well, a nanny, schools and the challenge to establish friendships. Having said farewell to the faith of his childhood the return to God takes time and is full of criticism. Alcohol got a grip on the auth An entertaining coming of age by the now Episcopal priest Ian Morgan Cron. Cron is honest about his adult lens to do his personal retrospective. Of course it’s part fiction and ‘a memoir….of sorts’. His Roman Catholic upbringing, earliest memories of his alcoholic father who worked for the CIA as well, a nanny, schools and the challenge to establish friendships. Having said farewell to the faith of his childhood the return to God takes time and is full of criticism. Alcohol got a grip on the author as well. During a ‘rollercoaster ride’ with all kinds of strong emotional and personal developments in only 18 months time, a powerful rehabilitation takes place. Now, after 23 years of sobriety it was time to write this memoir. No, life’s journey isn’t ended yet, but as Cron saw, it can be over in a minute. Fed up with all kinds of cheesy conversion stories or Christians writing books full of Bible verses without personal application, Jesus, My Father, the CIA and me, is a fresh alternative.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Easy to read, very lyrical at times. I'm glad I read it, but I'm heartily tired of the one-sentence paragraphs that are so often used for effect nowadays, & this author is very fond of them. Or maybe his editor was. (See, isn't that annoying?) Plus bitter experience has taught me to be extra-wary of narcissistic types. Cron's father is, & so is Cron himself, though he seems to have his reined in via spiritual direction & commitment to his family. I respect that discipline & am not sure how he could Easy to read, very lyrical at times. I'm glad I read it, but I'm heartily tired of the one-sentence paragraphs that are so often used for effect nowadays, & this author is very fond of them. Or maybe his editor was. (See, isn't that annoying?) Plus bitter experience has taught me to be extra-wary of narcissistic types. Cron's father is, & so is Cron himself, though he seems to have his reined in via spiritual direction & commitment to his family. I respect that discipline & am not sure how he could have balanced his writing better, so let's just say this is my hypersensitivity. We don't find out till rather late in the book just why he never wanted to be at home with his father, who up until that time just seems to have been lolling around in drunken stupors, occasionally getting up to yell & then staggering off. Unpleasant but not horrifying. I think the revelation would have served the book better early on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Clay Morgan

    Easily one of the best books I read this year. Cron's story is compelling and beautifully told. Memoir at its best can make readers all at once think "There's no way this really happened!" while at the same time feeling a deep, undeniable truth. And Cron is funny too. In telling the story of his upbringing in the house of an alcoholic father, Cron describes our universal desire to be loved. He chronicles how his search led to startling revelations of his father's work in the CIA. At the same tim Easily one of the best books I read this year. Cron's story is compelling and beautifully told. Memoir at its best can make readers all at once think "There's no way this really happened!" while at the same time feeling a deep, undeniable truth. And Cron is funny too. In telling the story of his upbringing in the house of an alcoholic father, Cron describes our universal desire to be loved. He chronicles how his search led to startling revelations of his father's work in the CIA. At the same time, he doesn't shy away from his own battle with addiction and anxiety during years in which he seemed to fail more than succeed. In the end, Cron has his own children and wrestles with the tension between loving his kids enough and perhaps guarding them too much. All this set against the backdrop of his own relationship to a heavenly father, and what that celestial identity even means. Five star book all the way.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    It is probably easiest to talk about Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me by talking about what it is not. It is a memoir of a difficult childhood, but without every gory detail. If you are looking for long descriptions of abuse, this is the wrong book to read. It is not really about the CIA. There are no glamorous tales of espionage from the point of view of a spy's child. So, what's left? A spiritual memoir about finding God in the midst of suffering. Reflections on growing up as the son of an alcoh It is probably easiest to talk about Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me by talking about what it is not. It is a memoir of a difficult childhood, but without every gory detail. If you are looking for long descriptions of abuse, this is the wrong book to read. It is not really about the CIA. There are no glamorous tales of espionage from the point of view of a spy's child. So, what's left? A spiritual memoir about finding God in the midst of suffering. Reflections on growing up as the son of an alcoholic. Entertaining and humorous writing. There are some beautiful passages I will reread, memorably the one towards the end about his son and diving. I'd recommend it to readers who are the children of alcoholics or are trying to understand the children of alcoholics. I'd also recommend it to those who are encouraged by reading about other people's spiritual journeys. (7/10)

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