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GRACE LIKE A RIVER: An Autobigraphy
Christopher Parkening, with Kathy Tyers
Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 1414300468

With forewords by highly regarded evangelical author/pastor John MacArthur and internationally known author/speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, a quality read is an expected "given," and throughout the entirety of this autobiographical sketch of classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, there won't be any disappointments. Parkening characterizes his early childhood years as ones strongly influenced by his demanding father. Given to high, some might say unreasonably steep, expectations, Christopher's childhood was very different from most youngsters. His father, also a gifted musician, saw something rare and wonderful in Christopher at a young age and demanded perfectionism and drill sergeant-like discipline from him. Through hours of daily practice, beginning at 5:00 a.m. Christopher honed his skills, filed his nails just so, and practiced, practiced and practiced some more.

At age 12, Christopher's parents gave him the Segovia Golden Jubilee three-record set as his birthday gift. Not too long after, his entire family attended Andres Segovia's concert where he was also able to meet the master in person. Never having forgotten that moment when Segovia patted Christopher's cheek, he was more inspired than ever to succeed. Under the tutelage of Celedonio and Pepe Romeros, Christopher and his father studied Pepe's every move, "from his hand position to his sitting position to his techniques for increasing speed."

Frustrated that Christopher was unable to advance his speed, father and son realized that Christopher's fingernail shape was arched (not flat), so this innovative team developed finger braces to reshape them. Christopher wore these "braces" nightly for five years; finally he realized they would always return to their natural shape once the braces came off. So Christopher concentrated on learning to file his nails (an hourlong process) to make up for their arched natural form.

Fast forward several years, Christopher has now become a recognized artist and his life has changed dramatically. Still, between practicing, performing and cutting records, he somehow managed to develop another love of his life: fly-fishing. Betwixt and between his ever-increasing travel schedule, Christopher and his dad spent hours laboring over the lakebeds and finding blessed reprieve from the stressful world of concert performances. These true escapades are duly sandwiched between each chapter segmenting Christopher's life; though short and concise, they offer some entertaining "fish tales" and poignant life takes as well.

At the top of his game, Christopher finds himself increasingly dissatisfied with his life. Despite marriage, early "retirement" at age 30, and everything he could want materially, Christopher turns to Christ and makes a personal commitment following some difficult life events. The remainder of the text details how faith in God and living for His glory, not for personal gain or recognition, has altered Christopher's life for the good. Consistently honest and transparent, he challenges others to take stock of their souls and includes a hefty question/answer section at the close of the book.

Readers will enjoy this medium-paced storyline that contains an insider's view on the world of performing artists. Especially inviting is Christopher's ability to provide a realistic and unembellished, yet grateful, picture of a life charmed by success but relinquished to Christ.

   --- Reviewed by Michele Howe

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