Book Review: The Gospel According to Josh
Author: Josh Rivedal
Publisher: Skookum Hill
Number of Pages:
My Rating: 3
Summary from GoodReads.com:
By the time Josh Rivedal turned twenty-five, he thought he’d have the perfect life-a few years singing on Broadway, followed by a starring role in his own television show. After which, his getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and his face would grace the cover of the National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Instead, his resume is filled with an assortment of minor league theatre and an appearance on The Maury Povich Show-a career sidetracked by his father’s suicide, a lawsuit from his mother over his inheritance, and a break-up with his long-term girlfriend. Tortured by his thoughts, he finds himself on the ledge of a fourth floor window, contemplating jumping out to inherit his familial legacy. In turn he must reach out to the only person who can help him before it’s too late. Based in part on his acclaimed one-man show, The Gospel According to Josh is a comedic and poignant true-to-life tale of love, loss, struggle, and survival-a gospel account of one young man’s passage into manhood-his twenty-eight-year Gentile bar mitzvah.
This book was funny. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. And tear inducing. But most of all, this book was a pleasant surprise.
I will admit, I was a little apprehensive about reading and reviewing this book when approached by Josh Rivedal’s rep as it is a memoir about someone who seems to have had anything but a happy and jolly life. Even though initially unsure, I am glad that I took a chance and read this one- it will stick with you.
Josh Rivedal’s childhood was not a joyous one and it all began with his father and grandfather, who committed suicide. While he has a few happy memories with his father, most of those are overshadowed by the verbal and emotional abuse he gives him, not to mention the occasional physical beating he gets as punishment. Desperate for a relationship with this man, he gives up on this hope and instead focuses on his acting career in New York City.
Crushed by the news of his parents’ ensuing divorce, he thinks that a silver lining might be the rebuilding of his relationship with his father, and it is, for awhile. Suddenly, all dreams of this budding relationship are squashed when his father commits suicide. Josh is forced to face a lot of demons while mourning his father’s death, and all of his family members cope in different ways. As he tries to deal with the loss of his father, the lawsuit he is in with his mother due to their father’s estate, his declining relationship with his long-term girlfriend, and his lack of an acting career, Josh sees his life downward spiral and he too feels like he will follow in his destined footsteps and take his own life.
It is at his lowest point that he has a revelation and realizes what his life purpose is- he should use his acting and writing talents to help others dealing with depression and suicide by writing educational and engaging plays about these topics. And he does just that, all over college campuses, teaching and helping others. This is where the story ends us, with a glimmer of hope for our dear Josh.
Overall, this was a pretty hard book to read. As I described, Josh’s life was anything but happy and he talks about his father’s death and his feelings about it in extreme detail. I actually had to stop reading for a couple of days at this part, as it was that sad. Needless to say, this book evoked some strong emotions in me, which is why I gave it a 3 out of 5 rating. I could not go any higher, however, because it was very depressing at times to read and it sometimes made me feel hopeless for Josh and where his life was going to go.
I am glad I read the book and learned more about his mission, as it is something I strongly agree with and think that we need to address more openly in our country. Depression and suicide are normally pretty taboo topics that unfortunately don’t get talked about as often as they should. Mental health is a huge issue in our country and many people don’t know where to start in asking for help. Through his plays as well as his book, I feel like Josh Rivedal is doing a great job taking that first step for people and reaching out to them. A brave man who has overcome his own many obstacles and is helping others overcome theirs.