***Reviewed for www.luxuryreading.com***
Matches In The Gas Tank is a commanding memoir about religion and family. The emphasis of the book lies not on the inner workings of the Radio Church of God, but instead on the inner workings of the Powers family and how the church influenced and ultimately had a hand in destroying them. Carla Powers tells her story in a careful, yet poignant way. She is not quick to pass blame on the church but instead shows the error of their ways and their teachings in regards to her family and herself. The memoir mostly focuses on the decline of her father, Charles, who is an alcoholic with an anger problem and the ultimate strength and love of her mother Mary Ann. As captivating and influential Herbert W. Armstrong the church’s founder and leader is, Carla does not fill the book only with his words and views. He is a looming character in the memoir, but sends his ministers to do his dirty work which the reader sees. Instead, she focuses on the struggles and triumphs of her family and herself in spite of the far reaching grasp of the radio Church of God. This mostly is a memoir of a woman coming to terms with her lack of relationship with her alcoholic and non-existent father.
Carla has overcome poverty to become a successful lawyer in Texas, far from her sheltered beginning in the Radio Church of God. When she receives the call that her father is dying, she is instantly thrown into the memories she has worked long and hard at forgetting. As she goes to the hospital, she joins her mother and two brothers, Steve, who still thinks fondly of their father and Dan, who never even knew him, and the four of them push through the memories and hurt to figure out care for the man laying the hospital bed. This is the very man that almost destroyed them all, individually and as a family.
Powers memories are vibrant and clear. She remembers details with amazing accuracy yet does not overwhelm the reader with useless information. You can feel her pain listening to her parents argue, feel her shame when the ministers come to inspect the house, and ultimately feel her triumph when she realizes the lessons she learned and that her upbringing helped shape her into the strong woman she became. For those looking for an intimate look into a fanatical religious movement, this is not that type of story, this book is for anyone looking for a success story of a strong woman and her family, who started with almost nothing and came out with so much.