A Transparent and Transformative Story
A Review of
The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found
Angela Williams Gorrell
Hardback: Eerdmans, 2021
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
From the minute you open The Gravity of Joy, Angela Williams Gorrell’s honesty and complete transparency pull you into her story and the stories she shares about others in her journey. Too often the tragedies of suicide and drug addiction seem confined to the nightly news rather than impacting people that we know. Three deaths in quick succession combined with leading a prison Bible study put these issues at front and center for Gorrell when she was conducting research for The Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project. Wrestling with these seemingly incongruent experiences resulted in The Gravity of Joy which is a memoir sprinkled with theology and backed up with research.
Gorrell poignantly shares from her personal life, her experiences growing up, and the experiences of those around her. While not preachy in tone, pertinent scripture verses and experiences common to congregational life are included throughout the book. Readers will nod along with familiarity at specific memories or find themselves signing along when specific songs are mentioned. These familiar reminiscences help to remind readers that these could be their own experiences or those of individuals they know. Gorrell’s descriptions of the women in her prison Bible study, their pasts, and their hopes and dreams, are poignant reminders of their humanity and the need for reforms in our criminal justice and welfare systems.
Due to content regarding suicide, addiction, and prisons, The Gravity of Joy is recommended reading for anyone who knows anyone who has experienced these issues and particularly anyone who may minister to anyone impacted by these issues. Instead of being horrors which someone else experiences, Gorrell draws back the curtains to allow anyone to see the impact that suicide and addiction have on our communities, and the need for prison reform. In addition to these groups; anyone who has hoped to experience elusive joy or to find joy “down in our heart” will enjoy this work. While a thoroughly engaging work that could be read straight through, readers are encouraged to engage deeply with The Gravity of Joy as a slower read, useful for spiritual formation.
Leslie Starasta serves as the Information Services Librarian at Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, IL. She occasionally takes classes at Lincoln Christian Seminary in pursuit of an MDiv. Her interests include spiritual formation, theology, and world missions. Additional book reviews are available at Musings from Librarian Mom: (https://librarianmomsworld.blogspot.com/)