Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Review: Under the Overpass

Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis, 20-year old middle class guys, feel God calling them to live on the streets as homeless men. So they drop out of college and their comfortable lives and take to the streets. Under the Overpass is a first-person, true-story account of their five month journey in five major US cities carrying only their thrift store sleeping bags, their bibles, journals, and guitars.

The vulgarities and crudeness of the language used on the streets has been left out, making for a softer, less jarring read. However, the harsh realities of their experience and the desperation of those they meet are still raw and honest in the telling. The challenges they face are those basic needs I don’t often think about: where to use the bathroom, how to get something to eat, not to mention storms, violence and rats. Those type of issues I take for granted and I enjoyed reading how Mike and Sam solved these problems in each city. If you’re hungry enough you will eat out of a trash can, for instance.

Still more interesting are the tales of meeting the people on the street. Crazed drug addicts, the mentally impaired, and handicapped veterans are just a few of the types of people they commune with. The negative treatment Mike and Sam receive from the “normal” passersby on the street, even professing Christians, and churches is disappointing.

I didn’t find the book depressing, or guilt-producing. It’s an easy read. Mike’s accounting of their experiences is straightforward story-telling without preaching. I did get choked up here and there with some of the stories and observations. This book doesn’t try to solve the homeless problem or point fingers. It does, however, confront the reader’s pre-conceived ideas about those who are most despised and intentionally ignored in our society. After reading the book I am genuinely concerned for those in my own city. I have from time to time headed downtown at night looking for homeless people who need a blanket or pillow, especially when it’s cold. I never felt like that was doing much. After reading the book, I feel encouraged to do more. I have also been fearful of the homeless and this book confirms we need to be careful when reaching out to those sleeping on the streets. I plan on contacting my local rescue mission to see how I might be able to help those in need on a more regular basis as result of reading Under the Overpass.

I like this book so much I wish I could buy several boxes to give away to my friends. “You need to read this book,” is what I want to tell everyone. Even those who don’t share my faith in Christ will find this book thought-provoking.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

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  1. I guess this wasn't a "little" review, but a long review. I need to work on my cutting and editing. oops. However, I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

  2. Sounds good. Nice review. I often wonder/worry about the people I see setting along the road with signs asking for money or help--sad.

  3. Hey :)

    I read your review at Blogging for books, good stuff, gave it a 5/5. I was really close to getting this book but--held off. Glad it was such an interesting read. Now I *really* want it!