Michelle Layer Rahal has the voice of a storyteller as she takes us on a journey from war-torn
Vietnam, to France, Australia and eventually the United States through the eyes of Minh Phuong
Towner as she searches for healing and her place in the world. Straining Forward is a beautiful
memoir of survival, self-reflection, and faith.
Anna Whiston Donaldson
Author of the New York Times bestseller Rare Bird
Minh's Phuong Towner’s book, like her life, is a triumph. Her story offers an eye-opening view of the incredible hardships suffered by so many in other parts of the world, but also of the unfathomable redemption and freedom found in Christ. Her account is edifying and encouraging for us all.
Retired Congressman Frank R. Wolf of Virginia
Former co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Author of Prisoner of Conscience, One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights
In the tradition of Augustine’s Confessions, Minh Towner makes confession both of her turnings
away from God and of her turnings back to God. In the face of evils perpetrated against her and
despite her own moments of falling short, Minh testifies to God’s unending grace and
providence. Here is an account of an ordinary yet extraordinary woman who finds her way home.
Her invitation to you to accompany her is deeply moving.
John P. Burgess, Professor of Systematic Theology, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Author of Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia
Straining Forward is an engaging memoir that begins in Vietnam during “The American
War” which destroys young Minh's life of privilege. Her family fractured, Minh makes a
harrowing escape on a boat and ultimately crosses two continents. She thinks she is searching to
better herself, but ultimately realizes she is searching for her salvation, which has been doggedly
following her. This lively journey is told with a clear gospel purpose.
Author of Ruined
In the early hours of January 31, 1968, New Year fireworks gave way to gunfire. Eleven-year-old Minh watched in horror as her father and two siblings were gunned down by the Vietcong in their backyard. Though she escaped the bullets that night, abuse, prison, and torture would follow. A dramatic escape by boat on the South China Sea eventually takes Minh out of communist Vietnam, but the tragedy of her childhood will haunt her as she moves to France to Australia to America before she finally submits to God’s purpose for her life.
Straining Forward is a riveting spiritual journey of hope and healing that reminds readers that we are all more than victims of circumstance and that even in the loneliest and most desolate moments, we are never truly alone.