Well, I had hoped that I would be able to write a chapter by chapter synopsis but, my business is keeping me on my toes (Praise the Lord). So instead, I'll just sort of give you my thoughts on the whole thing, hopefully not forgetting anything.
So, many of you know who Dr. Markides is by now and have probably either read a little of his work or may have listened to him on Ancient Faith Radio or myocn. I have all three of his books on Orthodox Spirituality (The Mountain of Silence, Gifts of the Desert, and The Inner River). This last book pretty much follows the formula of the previous two in that Dr. Markides carries on discussions with "Fr. Maximos" (a real person but his name was changed for privacy). Two things that stuck out from this one that I enjoyed were first his "coming out" as a sincere believer and no longer a Sociologist observing Orthodox Christianity. One particular chapter, he explains to an aging friend who's also an atheist and former member of the Cyprus communist party why he now believes. It's an interesting chapter. The other thing I loved was the discussion of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit as laid out by St. Paul. This discussion spans several chapters and is, for me, worth the price of the book. Fr. Maximos goes into detail on the nine Fruits (there are obviously more, but he sticks to the nine). But more than just explaining what they are, he delves into how you and I can achieve them. As in The Mountain, Fr. Maximos discusses quite a lot about the Jesus Prayer. I can attest that since following his advice on when and how to say the Prayer, it's starting to take a hold; I mean, it really works.
Another really encouraging aspect that Fr. Maximos talks a lot about is that when a person tastes Christ and begins to acquire the Holy Spirit in his/her heart and moves beyond faith (which oddly enough is towards the bottom of the list of the nine Fruits), anguish, angst, depression and all fears melt away. When reading Fr.'s discussion, you really get the sense that he's not just repeating what his elders have told him but that he's speaking from experience and that it's actually achievable for a country bumpkin like me.
The one thing I could do without, as in all of Dr. Markides' books, is his "professional" interjections and his pontifications. Although now he's openly admitted that he has returned to the faith of his forefathers, he still has a tendency to approach it as a Western educated scientist. I won't go into detail here as that might turn off some or turn on others for the wrong reason. I understand where he's coming from, having been a follower of another religion and an agnostic myself, but a third of this book was Dr. Markides interjecting his opinions or views. Maybe that'll reverberate with y'all. I found it a little irritating.
Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the book, but I would bundle it with another book like, say, Bread and Water, Oil and Wine by Fr. Meletios Webber.
For those of y'all who've read The Inner River, what did you think?