Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski

As a college student, Mike Yankoski hadn't had much of a chance to put his faith in God to the test.  Compared to many others in the world, he had lived a life of relative ease.  So when the opportunity arose - a semester off of college - he teamed up with another college student, Sam, to put their faith into action.  They wanted to find out what it was like to be homeless in America.  They planned a six month period of time, during which they would experience homelessness in six different US cities.  They took only thrift store puchased sleeping bags, one change of clothes, and their guitars.  To travel from city to city they panhandled and they lived only off of the money they earned pan handling and from shelters and food kitchens.

I'd describe this as well-written light non-fiction.  Because it's really a memoir, there isn't a lot of fact presentation or research that needs to accompany it.  It's written in an accessible way that I think makes the book appealing to a variety of people, including teens and possibly even middle graders.  At times simplistic, I think the writing really accomplished what the author wanted: to make his story available to a wide variety of readers. 

Entertainment Value
I was pulled in from the first chapter.  The story of what Yankoski goes through as a homeless person is moving and intriguing on its own, but what really made me love it was the spiritual insight.  A major criticism of modern Christianity is that Christians do not do enough to help those in need.  Yankoski's experiences show both sides of this: some Christians are generous and some reject the men based on their appearance.  And this need for acceptance and generosity from the Christian community aren't the only spiritual insights gleaned from the book.  Many passages challenged me on a personal level in various aspects of my life, including my attitude towards the poor. 

I highly recommend giving this one a try.  It is a work of Christian non-fiction, so be aware that it's going to be coming from that point of view, but I think this one could also appeal to non-believers.  Yankoski doesn't preach and the book doesn't require that readers agree with Yankoski's religious beliefs, although they do play a large role in the book.  It's also a very accessible book and will appeal to a wide range of reading styles, abilities, and ages.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for your thorough review. Hugs and have a great week! :O)

  2. Might have to check this one out. If you're interested in reading more about the homeless experience, Lars Eighner wrote a memoir about his experiences called Travels with Lizbeth. I really enjoyed it quite a bit. It was very, very gritty, but also really enlightening.