From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Author Elenbaas, a New York writer and therapist who grew up Minnesota-nice until he rebelled into a sex-and-drugs period, writes of his discovery of the curative and transformative power of the psychedelic experience. Elenbaas participated in ayahuasca healing in Peru; ayahuasca is a jungle vine brewed to make a highly purgative, hallucinogenic drink. The healing experiences allow Elenbaas to come to terms with himself and a family history of men who can't figure out what to do with themselves. At the heart of the book is the relationship between Elenbaas and his father, a well-intentioned progressive Midwestern Methodist minister who cares more for his job than for his family. The tension in their relationship is heartbreakingly poignant, and the book's best writing comes when Elenbaas writes with an observer's eye about his family and his experiences. The conclusions he draws are less than profound, but the journey he writes about should not be missed. Less about drugs and more about family, this is a book for fathers and their sons; it beats the swagger of war stories.
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Ayahuasca is a highly psychotropic brew traditionally used for divinatory and healing practices in South America. It’s at the heart of this memoir charting the reconciliation of Elenbaas’ wounded religious past as a minister’s troubled son with his current holistic, nonsectarian spirituality. With a nod to angst-filled coming-of-age accounts like Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries (1978) and addiction-recovery fiction such as Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (1992), Elenbaas takes readers on a clear-eyed tour of childhood memories and hallucinatory ayahuasca ceremonies, drawing clear lines between early traumas and his later spiritual grappling. Though the themes he wrangles with aren’t new (an itinerant childhood, his father’s depression and infidelity, the glamor of Fundamentalist Christianity), the candor with which he expresses his confusion in attempting to develop a coherent spiritual narrative for his life is refreshing. To call this a gospel, as Elenbaas does in the subtitle, might sound grandiose at first. But being a firsthand Evangelical account of the wonders of spiritual exploration and discovery via ayahuasca makes it one, of a sort, and an engrossing one, at that. --Taina Lagodzinski