Hang On, Let Go: What to Do When Your Dreams are Shattered and Life is Falling Apart

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Hang On, Let Go: What to Do When Your Dreams are Shattered and Life is Falling Apart


Frank Viola


Tyndale Momentum

Publication Date:

August 17, 2021


Softcover (paperback)


352 pages


Sooner or later, we will all go through a crisis. Frank Viola argues that the secret to getting through those crises is something that may feel odd: we must let go of our circumstances. We must learn to trust God no matter what the results, recognizing that he is sovereign and will get us through the situation. Viola describes the pieces of advice he collected during his own crises, showing readers what they need to survive under stress, and even be transformed by it.

Viola makes each chapter 1-5 pages long, which suggest he’s going for the chapter-a-day format popular with inspirational writers. You can find various books published by Bethany House which use this format, although generally with a chirpy tone and marketed to parents or families. Viola goes for a gritty tone, refused to pretty things up or to tell readers that everything will turn around soon. He’s more honest than that, admitting things don’t necessarily get solved the way we want in this life. Instead, we find the strength to keep going when we trust in God over our circumstances. Interestingly, John Piper makes this same point in his recently expanded book The Supremacy of God in Preaching, arguing that pastors help parishioners best when they emphasize God’s sovereignty in their preaching. In making this honest, unexpected but orthodox point, Viola cuts through the noise to give readers something which may not sound inspirational but proves to be substantial.

Unfortunately, this all gets undercut by the fact Viola doesn’t tell readers much about his own crises. He argues in the introduction that this information is unnecessary because he’s making universal points anyone can apply to their situation. However, a story has to be particular in order to make universal points compelling. Otherwise, it becomes like the Peanuts comic strip where Linus asks Lucy to read him a book: Lucy opens the book and says, “A man was born… he lived and he died. The end!”

On top of that, particular in a world where everyone has some advice (often unsolicited) about crisis survival, readers aren’t interested in what everybody has to say. They are interested in advice from people with experience, or a knack for giving sage advice, or other traits that makes them seem trustworthy. In the absence of knowing the author personally, that means the author has to tell a little about himself to create credibility. For example, Tez Brooks opens his book The Single Dad Detourwith a glimpse of his marriage breaking down. This scene makes readers empathize with his situation and it frames the book’s bodies (tips about navigating post-divorce fathering). Granted, Viola probably wouldn’t want to tell readers too much up front about his situation, which would bog down the early chapters. Still, there are ways to describe the crisis which avoid that pace problem. Mitch Albom spaces out past stories about his mentor Morrie Schwartz throughout his book Tuesdays with Morrie, while the main narrative describes Albom reconnecting with Schwartz. Regardless of how the book is organized, readers have to get some sense of the author’s backstory and personality to be invested in the lessons.

This is particularly true because Viola often frames chapters in a way that hinges on knowing what he went through. For example, in one chapter he talks about a four-month period where he felt God telling him something, which was repeated multiple times over when various people made the some point in almost the same words, and several coincidences reinforced that idea. Since he doesn’t say what questions he was asking, the answers given don’t make much sense. The problem here is similar to Ben Young’s book Survive the Day: the writer makes good points, but won’t let readers into his head. As a result, the lessons feel too generic.

A flawed yet refreshingly honest look at overcoming life’s storms.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

3 stars

Suggested Audience

Christians undergoing difficult periods, seeking honest advice about how to survive those situations.

Christian Impact

Viola retells several Bible stories and builds his advice around solid Christian teachings about suffering.

Hang On, Let Go: What to Do When Your Dreams Are Shattered and Life Is Falling Apart

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