When three children follow their parents through eastern Europe on Bible-smuggling adventures in the early 1970s, they have no idea their father is fleeing a felony warrant for his arrest.
Returning to the States, they face third-culture questions of home and identity. They also deal with sexual situations and abuse, while settling into an evangelical bubble with their parents who pastor a fast-growing church.
Everything collapses when their father runs off with an eighteen-year-old girl, leaving behind his family and church. This forces Heidi, Eric, and Shaun to reconcile their own spiritual fervor with the lies and dysfunction so close to home.
Having been a pastor’s son for the entirety of my life, I was immediately intrigued when I saw Eric talking about writing American Leftovers with is siblings. Eric and the publisher of the book, Chalice Press, were kind to send me a review copy of it for purposes of this review.
The book is split into five parts; the first two being about the authors’ experience smuggling Bibles with their parents in Eastern Europe, the third being about their transition from that life to one in the United States, and then the final two being about their experiences as their parents begin to pastor a rapidly growing church and the toll it begins to take on the family as a whole.
One critique I saw from a fellow reviewer is that the first two parts were a bit light on specific details. I agree with them on this fact, but I don’t think that it is a weakness of this book. The authors were kids at the time, of course, and kids aren’t privy to all the minute details of life even if they are so drastic as those experienced by the Wilsons.
While my life as a pastor’s kid has not been anywhere near as turbulent as that of the authors’, I did see a bit of myself in it and could identify with a few of their experiences such as what it was like to grow up serving in the church and navigating their parents having a second family, as it were, to take care of and be on call at all times. The only critique of this book would be that it did not go into as much detail about how their experiences impacted their faith as much as I expected. This is mostly reserved for the epilogue. However, Eric has said that he plans on writing a book that tackles faith head-on. I will most definitely be reading it the moment I get the opportunity.
All in all, American Leftovers is a great memoir of family trauma and crises of faith. I highly recommend reading it.