In Where the Light Fell, I reveal the details of my impoverished upbringing in the South and a secret that set me on a search to understand the truth of my family and the culture in which I was raised.  It’s a kind of prequel to everything else I’ve written, the story of my widowed mother finding security and purpose in a strict fundamentalist faith that fought against everything: integration, Communism, the social changes of the 1960s, her wayward sons. By reading this previously untold story, you’ll understand why my books have so often centered on the themes of suffering and grace. In this, my most personal book, I examine the nature of love—how a mother’s love can get tested to the breaking point; how the love of a community can be turned against outsiders; how the love of God can be obscured by those who speak in God’s name; and how love yet manages to find us against all odds.

So many of the strands from my childhood—racial hostility, political division, culture wars—have resurfaced in modern form.  Although you will recognize an origin story of sorts for today’s social and political divides, at its heart this is a book about the possibility of healing and the hope that nothing in a person’s life need go to waste.



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Endorsements and Honors

“Searing. Heartrending. In his gorgeous memoir, Philip Yancey finally reveals the story behind his relentless quest to separate a true faith from its counterfeit. He learned the value of grace—because he was denied it. This stunning tale reminds us that the only way to keep living is to ask God for the impossible: love, forgiveness, and hope.”
Kate Bowler, New York Times bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason and The Preacher’s Wife

“One of the world’s finest Christian writers has written his most personal and gripping book. Where the Light Fell is a stunning memoir – beautifully written, transparent and vulnerable, raw and honest, evocative and unforgettable. It is a story of pain and redemption, of shattered lives and healing grace. Yancey’s remarkable ministry of empathy and grace can’t be understood apart from the wounds he sustained during his early life. His gifts have been shaped by his scars. Where the Light Fell is the book Philip Yancey had to write, and the book we needed him to write.”
Peter Wehner, former senior White House advisor; Contributing Writer, The Atlantic and New York Times

“A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost”
Where the Light Fell could be a Faulkner novel with racist preachers, off-kilter parenting, tormented siblings, and religious hypocrisy right and left. It’s not an overstatement to say this stunning memoir might be the miracle we’ve all waited for—a son of the South wrestles with racism and fundamentalism without resorting to caricature. I believed every word.”
Carolyn S. Briggs, author of Higher Ground

“A gripping memoir . . . Yancey’s eloquent descriptions of coming to faith and his exacting self-examination make this a standout. Exploring the corrosive role of fear in faith, Yancey’s piercing and painful account invites comparison to Hillbilly Elegy.”
Publishers Weekly ()

“[Raw], honest, beautifully written, and at times searing …  We live in a world that is always clouded by ungrace, by strife and anger and division, according to Yancey, and Christians should be on the other side. … The pain of [Yancey’s] early life gives his words and his witness an authority and authenticity that he would otherwise not have.  He has become, over time, a person to whom the wounded and the brokenhearted are drawn, compelled by his message of grace.”
The Atlantic

“Yancey’s ability to experience the WORST of the American church and yet stay faithful to orthodoxy and in love with Jesus is a bold gift. For any of you deconstructing or dealing with a traumatic church past, I can’t recommend this enough.”
John Mark Comer, author of Live No Lies

Where the Light Fell is an answer to the question that looms throughout: What do we do with the burdens, sins, and pain of our past?”
Christianity Today

“[A] graceful, illuminating memoir, a gift to [Yancey’s] readers.”

“Like other super memoirs—Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club trilogy come to mind—Philip Yancey’s Where The Light Fell comes out of a place and time that is as peculiar as it is unexpected. The story of Yancey’s upbringing may come as a shock to his readers. It certainly should. In the end his spiritual awakening is both hard-won and miraculously given.”
Harold Fickett, Founder and CEO of Scenes Media

“Reading Philip Yancey’s memoir, I feel like I am journeying through my own childhood. My wife has banned me from reading the book in bed because I wake her up laughing or crying!”
Mathew P. John, author of The Unknown God: A Journey with Jesus from East to West

Where the Light Fell was a pleasure to read. Set amid the changing landscape of America and the church in the 1950s – 80s, Yancey explores the joys and suffering of family pressures, poverty, fundamentalist religion, spiritual formation, difficult choices, forgiveness, and redemption. This well-crafted memoir is poignant, funny, challenging, and heartwarming. I highly recommend.”
Steven Elmore, President, C.S. Lewis Foundation


Christianity Today Book Award Winner (), 2022


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