Reading Refuse to Drown, by Tim Kreider’s and Shawn Smucker is to challenge the way one thinks about one’s promises to love without condition.
Kreider and Smucker recount the days following a horrific crime, the stabbing death of three people in Manheim Township, PA. It soon came to light that Kreider’s teenaged son was responsible for the crime. The reader walks with Kreider as he wrestles with what it means to love his son, and do what’s right.
Kreider seeks to explain to himself, and to us, just what a father can do and be for his child, who is both obviously in pain, and the cause of so much pain. I’ll be honest: I have to read the book in increments. As a parent, and as a person who has walked with mental illness, the book is intense.
The book is solid and raw in a way I wasn’t expecting. I find myself inspired and in awe of the poise the family shows in the face of such unbelievable tragedy. Additionally, it is not often we stop to consider the family of the perpetrator. It is easy to sympathize with victims. It is much harder, often, to see beyond the act. Kreider does not seem to flinch when he lays out the case against his son. And I think the importance of the book lies here. Parents worry about their kids, and when we do imagine worst case scenarios, we will most often imagine our children being victims, not victimizers. And as a community, we are quick to place blame on parents when kids commit crime. This book challenges assumptions we might ofte make about parenting, discipline and even mental illness.
The book is written from a Christian perspective, by a man who clearly is seeking to act in a way that aligns with his faith. He talks about sacrificing and he write so plainly about a supernatural strength. There are many reasons to keep reading. We fall into a legal world of defense attorneys and deals that we don’t often experience. Along the way , readers might grow to find that shimmery hope for Alec, that he gets the help he needs, but never without remembering the severity of the crime.
The book is a tough read. And a worthy one. You can get your copy here.