by Chris “Tatted Strength” Luera and Michael Oropollo
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
At its core Beyond the Bars is well-written, twisted story about revenge. If you want an easy read then don't pick this one up. While it is fast-paced and easy to follow, it will definitely make you think about your personal definition of evil and your own ideas on morality. As a young gang member Chris Luera was looking for a life of success and glory. He found near death experiences, and solitary confinement. In dramatic prose he tells his story of life as a lost youth, who didn’t fit in, to finding his tribe on the gym floor, and becoming a champion. I like the effect of hearing the story through different viewpoints. I felt the most interesting parts were from the view of the villain and the priest. I could relate most to Nadia and Brody, with their expectations that the world should be good and their black and white ideas of morality. However I found that seeing the world through Jonathan's eyes made me question exactly what/who was evil in the world. And being able to understand Father Michael's thoughts and experience his reactions to the events made me think even more about who dictates what is good and what is evil. Then you are left with the characters who are in-between, neither good nor evil, and you hear from their perspectives as well. You are left to sort out for yourself what you truly believe. Do you feel sorry for Jonathan? Or do you, like Brody, feel that everything that happened was justified?
The family Chris Luera was born into was destroyed by drugs, alcohol and mysterious death. The family he was adopted into gave him love, a work ethic, and belief in his potential. The third family, the calisthenics family helped him rebuild his life and his body, and set him on a new course of personal growth, success and seeing the world.
The terrorist angle was brought up briefly and then left dangling at the end. The characters are outstanding and the story easily captured my attention. I would definitely recommend this book.