Archives For Memoir

 

Bearing Witness Within The
Ineffective Prison System
 
A Review of 
 

Refuge in Hell:
Finding God in Sing Sing

Ronald Lemmert

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Mary VanderGoot
 
 
Ronald Lemmert was a Catholic chaplain at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York for sixteen years. Refuge in Hell is his memoir. It is the story of why he chose to be a prison chaplain, why he stayed as long as he did, and why he left abruptly.

Prisons are grim places. The environment is rigid and unforgiving, but it is also unpredictable and dangerous. By reputation Sing Sing is among the worst. The first time Father Lemmert celebrated mass only twelve men from a population of 2000 attended. The chapel was “dirty and dingy….paint of the chapel walls was peeling….a large asbestos ceiling tile had become unglued and was hanging down.” (30) Lemmert determined to revitalize the chapel space and make it a place of refuge and calm.

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Questioning and Thanking and
Running and Falling and
Searching and Rebuilding

A Review of

Once You Go In:
A Memoir of Radical Faith
Carly Gelsinger

Paperback: She Writes Press, 2018
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Reviewed by June Mears Driedger

 

When God created Adam God declared it was not good for man to be alone, so Eve was created to ease Adam’s loneliness. The Old Testament is the story of individuals creating community with God and with one another. It is natural for us to long to belong to others whether this is within families, neighborhoods, sports team fandom, or within a faith tradition. We want to belong.

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Letting Go of Old Taboos

A Review of 

PURE: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free
Linda Kay Klein

Hardback: Touchstone, 2018.
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Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

Reviewed by Bob Cornwall
 

*** This review originally appeared
on the reviewer’s website.
It is reprinted here with permission.
Browse his website for other excellent reviews!

 
When I finished reading Pure, the U.S. Senate had only hours before concluded its day-long hearing that pitted the memories/claims of a previously obscure woman and the nominee for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court that she believed had sexually assaulted her when both were in high school. These two people are both highly educated and at least outwardly successful people. But there may be more to the story than appeared on the surface. The question raised in the hearing was who should be believed. In the past a man’s word would have been taken over that of a woman, unless there was corroborating evidence (see the deuterocanonical story of Susannah). At the heart of such questions is a long-standing belief that a woman should keep herself pure until marriage. In fact, until that point she should be a nonsexual being, lest she begin a slippery slope into sin. The call for purity/virginity is combined with a warning about being a stumbling block to men. And if something untoward happens, like sexual assault, then she must be at fault. Was she drinking? Was she wearing revealing clothing? Was she flirting? If any or all these factors are in play, then she must have been asking for it. That is the line that has bandied about by politicians and from pulpits from time immemorial. In the age of #MeToo and #ChurchToo such beliefs are being challenged, and rightly so.

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NPR’s book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews this excellent new book…

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke
in the Richest Country on Earth
Sarah Smarsh

Hardback: Scribner, 2018
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Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]
 

Listen to this review… 

 
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Meeting Ourselves in the Mystics
 
A Feature Review of

Mystics and Misfits:
Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints

Christiana Peterson

Paperback: Herald Press, 2018.
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Reviewed by Tammy Perlmutter
 
 

“Maybe simplicity, as it turns out,
is both boringly simple and searingly difficult.”

-Christiana Peterson

 

The first time Christiana Peterson encountered a saint or “mystic” was while cleaning out her grandmother’s house after she had been settled into assisted living. She fell in love with a worn, wooden garden statue of St. Francis carved out of a log she had spotted through the patio door.

Paired with the coloring pages of saints her daughter was bringing home from Catholic school, Christiana met other mystics, “devout human beings who lived on the edges, who longed for unity with God.” Little did she know it would bring her into an experience that would have a profound impact on her life and faith.

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints is not your typical book about saints you can never hope to emulate or otherworldly mystics. Mystics and Misfits feels like an unexpected, personal gift, a friend sitting you down to tell their story with complete openness, trembling but present, offering you their world-weary soul.

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Living, Loving, Dancing, Praying, and Contemplating
 
A Review of 
 

In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir
Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O.

Paperback, Ave Maria Press, 2018.
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Reviewed by Richard Goode

 

If one is looking for a guide to explain contemporary monasticism, Br. Paul Quenon offers the strongest of résumés. He is, for example, the embodiment of Trappist stability, having been a monk at Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethesemani for 60 years. As a novice he studied under none other than Thomas Merton. Br. Paul is also well published, receiving such accolades as “Best Spiritual Book of the Year” for his work. Beyond these facts, he is adept at painting a verbal picture. In the pages of this book, for example, we see the darkened Gethsemani church as the monastic choir prays Vigils at 3:15 am, an Office that the community has honored every day since its founding in 1848. Moreover, he portrays a modern Cistercian community respecting its centuries-old practice of “Ora et Labora” (prayer and work).

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Courageous Honesty

A Review of 

Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life
Jack Deere

Hardback: Zondervan, 2018
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Reviewed by Matthew R. Bardowell

 

There is a moment in Jack Deere’s memoir that illustrates what is perhaps the book’s main theme. A 10-year-old Jack sits in his living room amidst the family’s Christmas presents. Young Jack unwraps “a sturdy, vinyl blue and yellow model airplane with a small engine” (p. 26), but what he really wanted for Christmas was a larger balsa wood biplane with a big engine. The model plane he received was for beginners, and Jack, with the outsized confidence of the very young, did not consider himself a beginner. Naturally, he is disappointed, and his disappointment soon curdles to resentment. He is sent to his room. Later in the day, as he flew his vinyl plane, young Jack “crashed it after every takeoff” (27). Recollecting this scene, Deere remarks: “I was surrounded by [. . .] gifts, unable to feel anything but anger at what wasn’t there—an object of desire that I would have destroyed” (27). In these moments, Deere’s memoir is nearly Augustinian in its insight into the fallen human condition. The vinyl airplane is his pear tree.

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One of this week’s best new book releases is:
 

Room to Dream: A Memoir
David Lynch / Kristine McKenna

 
Hardback: Random House, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]
 
 
David Lynch was interviewed about this book
on NPR this week.  Give it a listen:
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Nearer to the Heart of God
 
A Review of 
 

God in Disguise
Trudy Taylor Smith

Paperback: CreateSpace, 2018
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Kelly Treleaven
 
 
As a teacher in the American South living in an upper middle class neighborhood and wrestling with my own religious identity, I didn’t expect to feel as personally moved as I did by an account from a Christian missionary seeking solidarity with the poor in India. But that’s exactly what good memoirs do, they connect: across continents, through spaces and experiences and beliefs. With admirable narrative dexterity and piercing vulnerability, Trudy Smith relates her spiritual and physical journey in a way that will reach those longing to hear God’s voice, especially those who may suspect they are unworthy of hearing it, incapable of interpreting it, or deaf to it altogether.

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Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out:
( Walter Brueggemann, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, MORE )

Each week, we carefully curate a handful of books for church leaders that orient us toward the health and the flourishing of our congregations.

Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader
To keep up with all the latest ebook deals,
be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook
 

*** DON’T MISS
Amazon’s Monthly Ebook Sale for May! 
CLICK HERE for the best deals
from it for Christian Readers…

 

ALSO, Fortress Press is running 
a HUGE Theology Ebook Sale now!
(700+ titles for under $5 each…)

 

 

#1:
The Psalms and the Life of Faith 

Walter Brueggemann

*** $3.99 ***

One of the best-known OT scholars on the significance of the Psalms

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