Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Still, Lauren Winner

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis


Lauren Winner  

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir; Faith

Synopsis: Winner takes us through her troubling faith crisis.

Date finished: 3 June 2014

Rating: ***

Several years ago, I read Winner’s Girl Meets God, about her conversion from Judaism to Episcopalism, and I was enthralled. I learned a lot about the Bible there. It was a smart, well-reasoned book with depth and heart. It was very hopeful and positive. It was about the beginning of a faith journey.

Her follow-up book, Still, is about the middle of that journey. After her mother’s death and her own divorce, Winner finds her faith shaken. She goes to church, but she quits praying. She feels estranged from God. It’s a common occurrence in lives of faith. While I’m not experiencing doubt in my own religious life, I do sometimes feel estranged and alienated. I sometimes throw prayer out the window. I sometimes wish for an easier path. So I had high hopes for this book. I expected it to be a growth experience, if not a solidarity read.

But this book just didn’t do it for me. It was short on quiet and long on loud, overanalyzed obscurity. What made her first book a favorite of mine—her scholarly approach to faith and the church—ruined this one. She talked about everything but what was really going on. She never reached the obvious conclusion: you can’t reason your way to God, to faith, to prayer.

There were moments of brilliance, and Winner sometimes has a way of relating two seemingly unrelated things that is fascinating. (Other times, the writing got ploddingly pretentious.) But I feel that she never really got to the heart of things. She skimmed along the surface and plunged into the depths of things that weren’t essential to the story, but I never felt like she was able to make a connection after all the talk. The book just sort of ended, and while I thought she was still “in the middle” apparently she was “at the end.” I couldn’t tell the difference.

I’m glad I read this, but I’m quite disappointed in it, too. When I want to read a good religious memoir, I’ll be re-reading Girl Meets God.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
No. But I would whole-heartedly recommend Girl Meets God.

You might also enjoy:
-Anne Lamott’s books on faith: Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace, Eventually
-A book that’s similar in writing style: Joan Didion’s Blue Nights (I really didn’t like that book.)
-Divorce memoirs: Happens Every Day and Around the House and in the Garden

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