John Griffin kept a journal for many years. It went far beyond the journals of most people. He wrote of Gregorian chants, his struggle with believing in God, his joy in seeing ordinary objects, monastic life, medieval music, Catholicism, and confession of sins. The keeping of a journal was a deeply personal thing for him, and was not originally written to be read by others. John died in 1980, and his wife Elizabeth held his journals. She later married Robert Bonnazi. When Elizabeth passed away in 2000, the literary rights of John Griffin passed on to Robert. He went through John’s lengthy journals, selected some of them, and published them as “Scattered Shadows”.
The book began with John on Morotai Island in the South Pacific during World War II. The year was 1945, when he was injured in a bomb attack,and began to lose his vision. After being discharged from the military, he went to France and lived in a monastery. When his eyesight was gone, he returned to the United States to lived with his parents. There he learned to function without vision. John fell in love and married Elizabeth, one of his mother’s piano students. Together they started a family. In addition to the blindness, John spent a year with severe back pain and paralysis in his legs from an unusual strain of malaria he had been exposed to during the war. But through all his physical problems, John refused to give up or be treated as a handicapped person.
The most inspiring parts of the book were the chapters where John appreciates his last days of vision, his description of what life was like immediately after he became blind, learning how to move around without getting lost or crashing into things, and finally being totally shocked by his returning vision.
However, Mr. Bonnazi did a great disrespect to John by publishing some of the entries from his journals. There was just too much of the book that was private introspection. It would have been better to leave it as such. There were also parts that veered too far from the main point of the book. The book bogged down in many places. I would have enjoyed the book far more if it was half as long, and stuck to the main story line. However, I am glad to have read it, as it gave me a better understanding of the man who would later disguise himself as a black man, and go on to write “Black Like Me”.