A Family Shaped by Grace – a book review 


Last summer I was hanging out in a Colorado hotel room while my husband attended a conference.


I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that a literary agent friend of mine had recommended a group called Hope WritersI immediately joined the group. As an author, I felt bummed that so many people were already part of this group and I had never heard of it. Hope Writers is a forum for writers to learn more about the craft of writing and marketing. It’s hosted by four people: Sisters Emily P. Freeman and Myquillyn Smith (The Nester), their dad Gary Morland, and author-mentor Brian Dixon. We learn from the blog posts, online discussions, podcasts, and videos they share.


So in November, I went to a Hope Writer’s conference in North Carolina. That’s where I really got to know the four people I mentioned above. They are the real deal. A quad of four talented, deep-thinking, generous people.


So now back to the book:


In this book Gary describes growing up with an alcoholic father. He describes the misery he was in while trying to parent his own children without any healthy role models. He noticed how tense and unhappy things seemed to be with his own wife and children but didn’t have a clue how to change things.


The book begins,

In 1985, my wife’s husband is thirty-four years old and an alcoholic who drinks three quarts of beer a day and falls asleep on the floor every night by 7 p.m. He’s a college dropout with no training or skills, no ambition, and no motivation.


Then three things happen:

  • Gary stops drinking
  • Gary comes to believe in Jesus
  • Gary meets a mentor named Harold


That was many years ago.

If you could meet Gary and his daughters you wouldn’t believe this was their history.


The theme behind A Family Shaped by Grace is how to create a healthy family. But the great news is this is not a book that overwhelms and shames you if you want to improve the state of your own family. Nor is it a tome with deep psychological material.


Instead it’s a fun, easy, playful (but not shallow) book with interesting stories. You’ll hear Gary’s gentle voice saying, “I didn’t know how to do . . . so I asked Harold . . . and then I tried this…and this is what happened.”


If I were to summarize the book in two words I would choose Gentle Guide.


One idea that stands out is the metaphor of a river. Gary helps you see why creating a healthy family matters so much. Generations before you shaped the family you were raised in, and those people shaped the way you behave in your current family. But even more importantly, what you do today matters, for down the river future families are being shaped you.


This book includes a Family Satisfaction Assessment and exercises to help you understand which areas you want to change.  It has a Family Peace Polestar that serves as a guidepost so you know which way to go. Gary describes Everyday Tactics of Family Disharmony that destroy peace and happiness, and then he offers the Timeless Tools of Family Peace.


I marveled at Gary’s transparency. He gives a lot of detail about his relationship with his wife. He reveals the ways he messed up his marriage. This isn’t self-deprecation that is intended to make him look good; this is a humble guy showing you the way.


You’ll be grateful for the specifics he gives.


If you met Gary and his family, you would definitely want to know how they became the caring close bunch they are.


This book traces their path.


Check out the video:


Ann Voskamp wrote about the book today as well.



Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."