One step beyond

One step beyond: one man’s journey from death to new life

Gram Seed with Andrea Robinson
CWR Publishing, 2008, £7.99, Pbk., 180p., ISBN 9781853454622

One Step Beyond has been voted the ‘Ultimate Christian Library Book’. If, like me, you hadn’t come across it before, I would highly recommend this book. It isn’t too much of a plot spoiler to explain that it’s the autobiographical tale of the rise of Gram Seed from serial offender and alcoholic via near death to being fully alive in Christ. Knowing that the story ends well does not diminish its power.

I liked this because it was British. It sometimes feels as if we are at risk of losing our British Christian cultural identity because so many books and so much of the music are American imports from the mega-churches. It was refreshing to hear about unglamorous Middlesborough instead. I had also started to wonder where the modern stories were coming from as I saw only ‘classics’ in the bookshops. One Step Beyond is bang up to date. Is it a Cross and the Switchblade for our times?

Gram’s transformation from sinner to sunbeam is truly amazing. Gram’s experience of the darker side of life is not skipped over. This depth of experience of addiction and prison life is simply told, but it is told well. It is a challenge to us all to not ignore or sideline those who we associate with crime, ASBOs and hopelessness. The book brings this to life without sentimentality, excuses or inviting pity. Gram says himself at one point that compared with some of the kids he meets now, his upbringing, although troubled, was ‘like a choirboy’s’.

There are no obvious appeals to us to turn to faith. The narrative is not cluttered with Christian jargon – in fact there are footnotes to explain things like ‘speaking in tongues.’ Andrea Robinson has done a great job in producing this narrative, retaining the character of Gram the storyteller. There is just a compelling story, simply written, of how a man who believed ‘nobody gives owt for nowt’ came to understand the nature of the love that is freely offered in Christ. This makes this an ideal book for people who are wavering, those unsure about religion. It’s not a difficult read, which is good, because it is difficult to put down.

Other simple facts challenge us in our way of evangelising. Ours is a faith based in the written word. How do we engage with people with poor reading skills?

Gram’s story left me feeling guiltily comfortable in some ways. Perhaps those who have a better sense of what they have gained through faith are those who are most prepared to make a radical commitment.

Contributed by: Sara Batts, BSc (Hons), MSC, who works as Senior Research Librarian for Reed Smith and has served on the CLIS executive committee  as our regional representative for London.