Child of Grace - A Death Row Story
Christian Faith Publishing (2018)
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (2/19)
“I wasn’t born in jail, but I came pretty close.” This first line in “Child of Grace” by Chris Brown sets the stage for what is an honest account of a young son’s relationship with his father - a prison inmate on death row. After several episodes of drug related crimes, Gary Brown is charged with capital murder. Once incarcerated, he sobers up, realizes the errors of his ways and rediscovers Jesus. As a leader in the prison’s “Life Row Church,” Gary sees that despite his dismal situation there is hope. He is filled with the desire to do good and pledges to give up his evil ways and live for God’s salvation.
In his book, Chris Brown characterizes his mother and father as a present-day Bonnie and Clyde, always in trouble with the law. At the age of 3, his paternal grandparents adopt him and carefully raise him to not follow in his parent’s footsteps. Still mourning for their love and feeling an especially strong emotional connection to his father, the author describes his prison visits with fondness. Never having had a physical relationship with his father, Brown longed for these family reunions and associated the jail visits with vacations, treats and times when special allowances were given. All during his young life, the author is given ample opportunities to thrive. He dreams of becoming a successful engineer but fears his addictive behavior will lead him on the same path as his father. Will he be able to learn from his father’s mistakes?
Although it is a genuine story, “Child of Grace” reads a bit pragmatic - almost like a newscast with just the facts being presented. Granted, Brown has had to be emotionally detached throughout his life to function with such grim circumstances. But his honesty and conviction still shine through. And, Brown’s intention is clear - he wants to help others who may feel as though they are beyond rescue.
The author is definitely looking for his father’s redemption. But it’s not to say that Brown is advocating for anything other than decency. He is proud that his father discovered ways for others to receive God’s blessing. He specifically references a sermon in which Gary Brown preached to prisoners that they should serve God because they loved him and not because they think it’s their way out of jail. It is interesting to juxtapose this with today’s political pardoning of drug-related criminal offenders turned honorable citizens.
Author Dr. Chris Brown tells the true story of how his father, a death row inmate, shaped his life. “Child of Grace” is a quick read that has powerful references to the bible, focusing on the concepts of redemption and charity. Yet, it is a memory of a son who possesses a strong connection to his father despite the prison walls that divide them. This would be a good book for anyone struggling with alienation or addiction. Its uplifting message is motivation for keeping the faith each time there is a fall from grace.