Ryan Job (pronounced Jobe), as described by his biographer, Robert Vera, is likeable from the beginning of A Warrior’s Faith–quiet and humble, yet strong and brave; the perfect formula for a hero. During Job’s SEALs training, he was singled out for an extra dose of grief by his trainers, but his attitude and enthusiasm made him a favorite.
I really enjoyed the first part of A Warrior’s Faith. Vera is at his best when writing about Job’s training and then service in Iraq. Job fought in Ramadi in 2006 along side Chris Kyle and other well known SEALs during some of the worst battles. It was here, on a rooftop on August 2, 2006, that an enemy sniper shot Job in the face (an understatement when you read the whole story). After becoming conscious, Job refused to have Kyle carry him to safety. In typical SEAL selflessness, he chose to get himself out of the building rather than put his friends at risk, though “half his face” was gone. The author notes that “Ryan was the first SEAL to be severely wounded in Iraq.”
Vera writes of the SEALs with great respect and admiration, and does a terrific job of showing their dedication to each other. This description of Mike Monsoor’s sacrifice is a good example:
An insurgent’s grenade “hit Mike in the chest and landed between him and his friends. Mike was nearest to the exit and the only one who had a chance to escape the blast safely. Instead, he chose to jump on the grenade and absorb the blast in order to save his friends.”
Vera convinces readers that Job was a man worthy of respect and admiration not only in battle, but when he returns home. Though completely blind (a result of the sniper’s bullet), he never considered himself a victim and continued to inspire people and live his life to the fullest, eventually marrying a young lady, who also earns the respect and admiration of readers.
If I had stopped reading the book half-way, I could post the above and leave it at that. But, as good as the subject is, and though Vera is not a bad writer, he gets in the way of the story. I’ll leave much of my criticism out and concentrate on a few of the bigger issues.
First, throughout the book Vera finds parallels between Ryan Job and the Job of the Bible, often stretching to find them. When we look at the big picture, it’s easy to make that comparison. Both suffered great loss, yet remained faithful, and their losses and suffering made them better people in the end. But Vera, time and again, finds parallels where there are none. One example:
“Amy’s parents arrived in the early afternoon. Her mom was fighting breast cancer at the time. Ryan had shaved his head in solidarity with her. I’m sure Ryan never knew the irony of his act compared to Job’s in the Bible. Job did the same thing in solidarity with the suffering and loss of his family: ‘Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.’”
Another criticism is that Vera, throughout the entire book, comes across as the omniscient narrator, often knowing Job’s unspoken motives, thoughts, and fears, even sensing danger beforehand:
“For reasons I couldn’t articulate, I had a bad feeling about this surgery…”
Vera also writes as though he were Job’s mentor, coach, protector, and spiritual advisor, at times bordering on condescension:
“I continued, ‘Whatever happened, whatever they did or said, let it go and move on. Don’t get me wrong. Forgiveness and trust are two very different things….’”
The author inserts himself into the book so much that the second half is more about him and his emotions than Job. For example:
“Sometime in the early morning hours of September 24, 2009, my King came to take Ryan home.”
If this book is about the faith of Ryan Job, as the title suggests, then why is it, “my King?” Why not Job’s? Job’s faith is almost never discussed by Vera, other than mentioning that Job’s favorite music was “country and Christian.”
Vera writes much about a lawsuit against the hospital where Job died. Just after saying the King brought Job home, Vera writes:
“It was a surreal situation. [Ryan] had survived BUD/S, his SEAL team hazing, and a sniper’s bullet, but it was a hospital in Arizona that killed him….The doctor looked frightened. I knew in my gut what had happened: someone had killed Ryan, most likely by a deadly cocktail of incompetence and arrogance.”
For the majority of the rest of the book, the hospital and staff become the enemy, as Vera describes himself, perhaps unintentionally, as the one who brings them to justice, at times being guided by direct communication from God.
The author has a great subject to work with, but could have written a much better book by sticking closer to it.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.