Book Review: Fat School Confidential
To be transparent, Joe and I were friends for several years in our youth. I had lost contact with him over the years but recently re-connected, you guessed it, on Facebook. I was not aware of this period of Joe's life but having once been friends with his wife as a young man - and having had a brotherly/competitive relationship with Joe in my 20s, I don't come to this with a completely blank slate.
I also have to say the issue of marital infidelity is a tough one for me. As one who grew up with such in my family, who has seen good friends severely hurt by it and likely has seen the impact of the cheating of past partners on women I've loved, it inspires anger in me at the men who do it.
That being said...
I am not a great reader. Sometimes it can take me months, years to get through books if ever. Once in a great while, there is a book whose story is so compelling and so rich that I can finish the book in one setting. Fat School Confidential is such a book.
While Joe's work is not at all highbrow literature, it is well crafted and Joe set's the table chapter by chapter so that the reader wants more. He very efficiently gives you a flavor of what is going on in his head, the people around him, the environment and external influences. There is an incredibly large cast of characters in the book and sometimes it is difficult to keep them straight. But even minor players Joe fleshs out and defines them well so you get some sense of their role in the drama.
The subject matter of this work is intense and is certainly timely with an abundance of news stories these days of inappropriate teacher-student relationships. While the specifics of Joe's relationship with "Wendy" is mild compared to practically all the stories we hear, and does not rise to the level of criminality, the tale itself - including the nail biting finale - is extremely disturbing. Joe clearly details the extremely poor decisions he made and the mountain of pain he inflicted on his wife and child. It is not at all a "feel good" story - and not for the feint of heart. But the story is one that needs to be told, not to provide catharsis to the author or even clear the air for those involved, but to remind us all that any of us could be a step away from making one bad decision leading to a cascade of further missteps and eventual destruction.
After having read Joe's story, normally I would be disgusted and want to condemn him. However my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a loving God insists that I not do so and offer forgiveness, kindness and love to Joe - with the hope that he and his family can recover as best as possible.
And quite frankly, I'm eagerly looking forward to Joe's next book...