My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Joni & Ken is the story of the relationship of Joni Eareckson Tada, the famous author, quadriplegic, and champion of the disabled, and her husband of 30 years, Ken Tada. Based on primary documents (articles, messages, blogs, interview, emails, radio transcript, out-of-print books of Joni’s are all listed in the “Acknowledgments” chapter) the story is told in third person, orchestrated by co-author Larry Libby. The telling goes back and forth between Ken’s and Joni’s points of view, making us privy to aspects of the events that the other person would not necessarily have been aware of at the time they happened.
The book skips around a bit chronologically but there’s no danger of confusion because each section is dated. The ten chapters deal with different periods in Joni and Ken’s relationship, and are titled descriptively (e.g. “At the Altar,” “The Testing Years,” “Reflecting on the Journey”). There is a middle section of colored photos.
This is a frank and touching love story. It shows this public couple who, from outward appearances may seem to live above the fray, to be human, vulnerable, brave, and above all committed and obedient Christ-followers.
The challenges Ken faced in caring for his quadriplegic wife while teaching school full-time (though he had help), are not glossed over. In the course of the book we see both him and Joni grow in maturity and love for each other.
The way Joni handled her quadriplegia, combined with her continuing siege of excruciating pain, then topped with a fight against cancer had me speechless. I’m glad God knows what He’s doing with lives that seem so unfairly burdened with tragedy. However through it all Joni is a glowing testimony first to Ken, and then to those whose lives she touches personally, in ministry, and now as readers of this book, of God’s sufficient grace.
Ken was a rock. Even through the hardest times, he was determined to keep his marriage vow. The part of the story that tells of his deepening relationship with God and how his heightened spiritual sensitivity became crucial during Joni’s fight against cancer is a heads-up to all of us. We never know when the next trial will come. If we press into God during the ordinary times (though I don’t know if you could label any of this couple’s experiences ‘ordinary’), He will prepare us for the challenges beyond.
Joni & Ken is not only an interesting and well-told story but a great unofficial guidebook for any couple. Let me leave you with some wise words from Joni herself:
“Thirty years have passed since Ken and I began our journey together, and God has used every trial—every hurt and heartache—to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married.
… nowhere else—and with no one else—will you have quite the chance to experience union with Christ than through a heard-fought-for, hard-won union with your spouse.
… If I were sitting next to you … I would say ‘Oh, please pray for your partner.’”
… It’s trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior” – Joni & Ken, pp. 177-179.
I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.