Book Review: Joni and Ken: An Untold Story (Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby)

Book cover courtesy of the Booksneeze program

Book cover courtesy of the Booksneeze program

(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the publisher’s book review program, Booksneeze, in exchange for an honest review.)

When I was a child, I picked up a copy of Joni. I was absolutely intrigued by the young woman pictured on the cover who could paint with her mouth instead of her hands. I can’t recall if I read the entire book, but I do know that I made it through the first chapter in order to find out why she used her mouth-quadriplegia. I don’t think that I’ve read any of her other books from then until now.  “Coincidentally” God used the girl who could paint with her mouth to start a ministry, Joni and Friends. Late last year, I was able to access resources through that ministry which lead me to believe that our son, a toddler, is autistic. A few weeks later, my “hunch” was confirmed by a developmental pediatrician.

As a result, I was excited to read Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story the second it appeared on my review list.  My husband can attest that I checked the mail everyday hoping that it had arrived!   Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story is an honest look at the struggles, suffering and hope in the Tadas’ thirty years (and counting) marriage.

“In reality, living with quadriplegia was never “normal,” and even the most compelling of international escapades began to fade after a while.  For Ken, what didn’t fade was the daily-nightly-daily-nightly drudgery of Joni’s disability routines. (I’ve omitted a section that details the routine here, in order to save space.)

Somewhere along the way, the never-ending demands became abrasive, scraping away at the romance of their marriage, grinding down perilously their resolve to go on” (83-84).

Isn’t that true for so many of us in our marriages?  Or, we get so busy doing what needs to be done right now that we forget to take the time to nurture the marriage relationship.  We stop caring about what God says that husbands and wives should do for each other (see Ephesians 5:22-33). We become like robots, and just do what we have to without doing our work lovingly.  This book illustrates the Christ like love that a husband can demonstrate for his wife when Joni tells the story of struggling with pneumonia after her second round of chemotherapy. During a particularly difficult night, she prays that she might see Jesus so that she won’t feel so that she will know he is still there.  Sometime later, she needs her husband’s assistance:

It was the third time that night she needed him, but there he was once again, so patient, so kind, so ready to help, deep love and concern written across every line of his face.  He turned her body to another position, pushed on her abdomen, helped her blow her nose.  Spoke words of quiet encouragement. Stroked her hair. Chased away the demons with words of prayer as he worked.

Suddenly, Joni turned her head and looked up at him, eyes wide with wonder.

It took him by surprise. Was she hallucinating?  What was she seeing?

“You’re Him!” she said.

“I…I don’t understand, Joni.”

“Ken…you’re Him!  You’re Jesus!”

Fresh tears began to flow, and he dabbed them from her face with a tissue.  “I’m not kidding.  I can feel His touch when you touch me.  I can see Him in your smile.  I can hear him in the tone of your voice.  Right now!  I meant it,” she said with a sob.  “This is what I prayed for.  You are Jesus!”

In some of her writings, Joni had called suffering “a splashover of hell.” But there were also “splashovers” of heaven, and this had been one of them.  Heaven was wherever Jesus was, and He had visited her that night.  She had called out for Him, just as blind Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the Jericho road, had cried out for Him in his darkness and despair.  And Jesus had come.  He came to her too-on that night, out of the fog, in the middle of that battle, stepping through her pain.

And His name was Ken Tada. (p. 149-150)

Overall, this is an encouraging read and I heartily recommend it.  If you have a Kindle, the Kindle edition is currently available for $3.79!


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Joni and Ken: An Untold Story (Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby)

  1. I know her story, even heard glimpses of the bk excerpts, but never knew he’s Asian – interesting. The reminder of her tale casts a different light on this recent post of mine on dance & marriage:

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