I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir
by Bart Millard, with Robert Noland
“The Story That Inspired the Major Motion Picture.”
The captivating story behind the bestselling single in the history of Christian music—and the man who wrote it.
MercyMe’s crossover hit, “I Can Only Imagine,” has touched millions of people around the world. But few know about the pain, redemption, and healing that inspired it. Now Bart Millard, award-winning recording artist and lead singer of MercyMe, shares how his dad’s transformation from abusive father to man of God sparked a divine moment in music history.
Go behind the scenes of Bart’s life—and the movie based on it—to discover how God repaired a broken family, prepared Bart for ministry through music, and wrote the words on his heart that would change his life forever. I Can Only Imagine is a front-row seat to witnessing God’s presence throughout Bart’s life. Whether falling in love with his childhood sweetheart or mourning his father’s death, founding MercyMe or flailing in the midst of its success, Bart continues to place his trust in God’s plans—plans that continue to surprise and surpass what Bart could have ever imagined.
My thoughts on this book…
I first heard the song “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe sometime around 2006, just after my first daughter was born. I started getting into Christian music pretty heavily at that time. MercyMe became one of my favorites along with Casting Crowns. I never did know the story behind the song or how it came about. Fast forward to 2018 and I started seeing the trailer for the I Can Only Imagine movie. I ended up watching the movie many times with my kids and began to wonder which events in the movie were true. I thought there must’ve been some things that were left out and knew I had to read the book to find out. After reading it, I discovered I was right.
This book takes you on an emotional journey through Bart’s life, from the physical and verbal abuse he endured by his father during much of his childhood, to his adult success as lead singer of MercyMe. His father is an enormous complication for Bart and his family, until he eventually becomes transformed by God and everything changes. Bart’s father wants to make amends after beating his wife (Bart’s mom) and breaking up the marriage. He becomes a person that Bart wants to be, like a best friend, a person to look up to, but Bart still has some scars to deal with. In this book, Bart talks about his relationships, struggles through life, and how God helped him through it all.
Comparing and contrasting the book and movie: I was really amazed to discover new things about Bart’s story, including one significant detail about his father that I can’t believe they didn’t incorporate into the movie. The timeline of events was switched up in different places. A few characters and locations were mixed up as well, however, this doesn’t take away from either the book or movie. It had to be really hard to cram everything about Bart’s life into a movie a few hours long. You simply have to read this book if you want the whole story! I definitely felt more emotion while watching the movie, but that could be because I watched the movie first–at least twenty times before reading the book. Not kidding!
For the most part, the book is told in chronological order. It’s written very well and it’s easy to follow. I loved that a song lyric begins each chapter which correspondeds with it in some way. The author included a photo section in the middle which includes photos of his father, mother, brother, and his wife and children now. I also really appreciate that an appendix was added sharing tons of Bible verses that helped Bart, including band stats pages. This is definitely a book that can be reread and referenced over and over again.
I personally LOVED this book. My family and I were heavily impacted by it and the movie. I’m so happy I bought it. My rating is 5*****.
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Gld edition (February 13, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780785216735
- ISBN-13: 978-0785216735
Thanks for reading my review of I Can Only Imagine. Have you read this book? Do you like MercyMe? Please feel free to leave thoughts and suggestions below.