Most evangelicals and even those who have no claim to the Christian faith know who Joni Eareckson Tada is because her story has been told via book, film, radio and in person thousands upon thousands of times throughout the world. Though most of Christendom knows who Joni is, very few people have heard the story of how she and her husband, Ken Tada, met and fell in love. JONI & KEN is part biographical and part autobiographical, in that it is written as told to author Larry Libby, yet much of it reads as an autobiography.
Imagine a book that both tells the story of two people’s lives and somehow simultaneously conveys the very beats of their hearts. Libby and the Tadas do a marvelous job of illustrating the difficulties in any marriage and dealing with the special considerations of marriage when one partner is severely disabled. Joni is due to her diving accident that left her a quadriplegic.
"Readers will laugh and cry right along with the Tadas and give thanks to God for their humility and transparency along this journey called life."
The book opens not in the 1980s when Joni and Ken first met at Joni’s church one Sunday morning. Instead, the authors begin this dramatic and telling story when they arrive at a favorite Italian restaurant and literally drink in the fragrant sites, sounds and smells of their special place…together in present time. Joni very knowingly remarks to herself that, in her case, cancer was a gift. Flash back to when Joni first discovered a pucker in her breast that her family and then doctors diagnosed as breast cancer. She shares all that went through her heart and mind when the news broke, and she told Ken that God was going to do something really great through this cancer. And Ken believed her.
Next, they take readers back in time to their first dates, courtship, and early married years when the stresses of ministry and work took their slow toll on the couple. Over a period of years and through many ups and downs of caring for Joni, somewhere along the line, Ken started fighting for his own emotional survival because he was simply exhausted and spent in every possible way. Joni felt her share of guilt because she understood how difficult and labor-intensive her care was for everyone. Between the two of them, who always did the right thing by one another, they sort of fell out of love.
During the ensuing years, the couple found themselves getting comfortable in their individual work and ministry responsibilities. It wasn’t until Joni began experiencing chronic pain that Ken did some soul searching, and slowly the two drew closer. However, it was the cancer diagnosis that brought the couple back together in love and in “like” so that now they are more in love, more grateful for one another, and more determined to fight Joni’s cancer and serve the Lord together as a team. This book is rich with thought-provoking testimony to God’s enduring faithfulness during life’s most difficult and terrifying seasons. Perhaps the strongest message, however, is that it is never too late to start over and enrich a relationship with one another and with God.
Readers will laugh and cry right along with the Tadas and give thanks to God for their humility and transparency along this journey called life.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on April 12, 2013