Shattered: A Son Picks Up the Pieces of His Father's Rage

Book, 2023, 216 pp
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A sensitive and penetrating reflection on coming of age in a Dutch immigrant family scarred by violence.

Arthur Boers's earliest memory was of shattered glass. His father threw a potted plant at his mother, and she ducked as the plant crashed through a window of the family home. His mother cleaned up the shards that day; later in life, he would find himself called upon to pick up the pieces as well.

In Shattered, Boers reflects on coming of age in a family scarred by violence. The son of Dutch immigrants, Boers illuminates the generational trauma of the Nazi occupation of Holland, refracted in vignettes of his boyhood in postwar Canada. His hard-working, Calvinist family is endearing, but ultimately unable or unwilling to address the insidious cycle of abuse that passed father to son. Breaking with this silence and complicity, Boers reflects candidly and empathetically on his tumultuous relationship with his father. Intertwined with this narrative is his emerging vocation to ministry, more mystical and expressive than the Reformed tradition in which he was raised.

Forthright and authentic, Boers extends a hand in solidarity to readers who have been wounded by those who were meant to protect them the most. With Shattered, he charts a path toward healing through faith.
“One of those rare memoirs that is both honest and fair, that pulls no punches yet lands at a place of hard-earned light and repose.” —from the foreword by Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie

“This brave and wonderful book made me feel gratitude, care, and something like quiet awe. And it made me think—about generational inheritance, about the ways violence lingers, about forgiveness, and, most abidingly, about my own dead mother. I think of her, and of myself unto her, differently now that I've read Shattered.” —Lauren F. Winner, author of God Meets Girl and Still

“It’s not all that uncommon these days to find a story told with unflinching honesty. But to find a story that’s also wise and tender and honors the complexity of every person, even those who’ve harmed us, even ourselves—now that’s a feat. And when the person who’s putting the words to paper truly knows the craft of writing as the alchemy of art and grace, well, then we have a book to cherish. Shattered is a book you’ll cherish.” —Winn Collier, director of The Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination and author of Love Big, Be Well

“How do glass shards become sea glass, smooth and beautiful? Reading Arthur Boers’s meditative, unsentimental memoir, I begin to believe that such transformation is possible, that cycles of trauma can be broken, that if we allow Jesus to tend unsparingly to our wounds instead of trying to hide them, beauty can emerge.” —Amy Peterson, author of Where Goodness Still Grows

“Arthur Boers’s Shattered takes us into the fascinating world of the Dutch immigrant experience. In exquisite detail, we’re given a rich sense of history—cultural, theological, and family—that stands on its own. But more than this, Arthur reckons with a lineage of male anger and abuse. His narrative reflections gesture the way forward for all of us who carry the weight of familial rage.” —Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate

“Arthur writes, “I may not be spoiled, but at times I feel ruined.” Truly, there is a deep sadness and lament in Shattered, but there is plenty of life too. Arthur has taken the painful fragments of his childhood, filled each one with kindness and generosity, and scattered them far and wide as a pastor, writer, professor, and beloved child of God.” —Ashley Cleveland, Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter and author of Little Black Sheep

“With steadfast candor, Arthur Boers comes to terms with his father’s difficult life and the perplexing dispositions shaped by that life. In so doing, Arthur attends to the complexities of father-and-son relationships and examines the complex inheritance of trauma and blessing that shapes many men’s adult lives. Shattered is finally a story of pilgrimage—a journey of healing, of forgiveness, and of the pilgrim’s clear-eyed and heart-opening pursuit of the Father who calls us to follow him.” —Scott Cairns, author of Slow-Pilgrim and Anaphora

“A poignant, compelling, redemptive cry of the heart. Each of the thirty-four short chapters invites readers to slow down, to reread them before moving on. Like waves rolling in on an ocean seashore, each successive chapter immerses the reader in worlds of heartache and hope. The interplay of Reformed, Mennonite, Catholic, and Anglican voices is, in itself, a powerfully instructive case study in the formation of a contemporary disciple of Jesus. Yet that pales in comparison with the soulful lament of a son grappling with the memories and legacy of trauma. I found myself bracing against the author's noble candor, yet doubly grateful for the solemn invitation here to behold the fierceness of familial love and paradoxical splendor of divine redemption that contends with the wounds of a world gone wrong.” —John D. Witvliet, professor of worship, theology, and congregational and ministry studies at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary

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