A Review of Keith Repult’s “Just Breathe”
From Hard Core to Soft Serve
Keith Repult has an incredible, albeit tumultuous, story about becoming a born-again Christian. After being shuffled around as a child from home to foster home, he dropped out of society and became a drug and alcohol abuser. From there, and believe it or not, he found a way into becoming one of America’s leading pornography distributors, making money hand over fist. He traded the porn business to open up a yogurt shop in a Californian beach town, joined a 12-step recovery program and found God.
Just Breathe, his memoir, was written for two reasons. One, if anyone asked what he’d done, he could just point them to the book and have them read it instead of having to explain himself. Two, he wanted to help those who were suffering from addictions by offering guidance on some of the things he’s learned. So that’s how we get a book that’s part life story and part self-help guide (though Repult dislikes the term “self-help”). One aspect of the book is more successful than the other, and I think you’ll know what that is by the time you get past the next paragraph.
I’ve been complaining that a lot of Christian books I’ve been reading lately suffer from a sort of vagueness. They skimp on narrative details for whatever reason, allowing readers to feel bored and listless as the author drones on and on and on with useless bits of narrative that don’t add up to much. Imagine fitting together puzzle pieces that actually don’t fit, and that’s what you get with a lot of these books. Well, it turns out that in the case of Just Breathe, Repult’s story is compelling — if not harrowing. He pretty much tells it as it is, and that level of honesty — with himself and his readers — is refreshing to read. It’s not vague at all.
That doesn’t mean that the book isn’t sometimes painful to read. “I never knew what it felt like to be home,” Repult writes, though two more authors — Mike Breaux and Jen Oakes — are credited with helping to pull together this life story. “Born in Memphis, Tennessee, to two teenagers, I moved in with my grandparents on my dad’s side when I was three because my mom’s latest husband made me sit in the bathtub while he took my sister in the bedroom and sexually abused her.”
As you can see, this is unflinching and powerful stuff, and the story just goes farther and farther down the spiral until redemption of a sort eventually comes. Basically, Repult was a lost cause — he turned to an alcohol and drug dependency that was so hard that he was often unemployed and homeless, and was stealing money or valuables just to feed his addiction. How he winds up owning one of the US’s largest porn warehouses is nothing short of a miracle. However, the book is really about how Repult was saved and healed and brought into the church than it is about the countless times he hit rock bottom. Readers will probably be inspired by this aspect of the narrative, making Just Breathe a good read for both recovering addicts and the recently converted.
The second part of the book, which takes up the last third of the book, is basically a variant of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program. This is the part of the book that I had some trouble with — as helpful and good intentioned it may be. You see, if you know anything about AA, it’s that anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of the group’s traditions. Which is to say, what you learn in AA should stay in AA. Even admitting that you are in AA is a bit of a no-no as far as the group goes, so I’m pretty sure that Repult is breaking one of the 12 traditions just by mentioning that he is a member, as he does countless times in this book.
In a sense, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this part of the book harms the very recovery program that the author has benefited from. I’m not disagreeing that the section isn’t helpful. However, as a substitute for the real AA, some might find it lacking in foundation — it’s just the Big Book pared down with some Bible quotes added in. But, more to the point, you’re supposed to be anonymous at the level of press, radio and film in AA. That’s why they call it Alcoholics Anonymous. Just sayin’.
Just Breathe is a brisk read of some 150 pages, and you can be over and done with this book in two or three hours. You may want to be done with the book that fast because it is generally, last section notwithstanding, a compelling and beguiling read. If I had any complaint about the book, it’s that you really don’t get a sense of how the porn industry works — a detail that would have been nice to know, but, given the religious topic of the book, would have probably been inappropriate to its sacred audience. Still, one walks away wondering if all it takes to be a porn kingpin is to make a few phone calls to retailers and talk them into buying your porn. (But how do you do that? How do you talk porn over the phone? Gah, the inner editor in me is crying out!)
In any event, despite its problems and controversial end section, Just Breathe is a compulsively readable book and it should be anyone’s go-to if they are contemplating giving one’s life over to Christ — especially if you’re as impulsive as the author paints himself in sections of his life story. (For instance, Repult buys house after house at escalating prices and is never happy with what he’s bought.) This is an enjoyable volume of a life lived in the hardest of circumstances at times, and there’s a great deal of inspiration and hope to be derived from this tale. If you have an addiction, but are feeling on fire for God, Just Breathe will show you the path to take from your ego to God’s will. That’s one thing the book does well, and makes this small title a worthy companion to take on your journey of recovery with you.
Keith Repult’s Just Breathe: All Stories Redeemable. All Brokenness Repairable. All Addictions Breakable. will be published by Broadstreet Publishing Group on September 1, 2017.
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