Brief Reviews, VOLUME 5

MaryAnn McKibben Dana – Sabbath in the Suburbs [Brief Review]

MaryAnn McKibben Dana - Sabbath in the SuburbsRethinking Our Crazy, Hectic Schedules

A Brief Review of

Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time

MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Paperback: Chalice Press, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Leslie Starasta.

Many people when they think of practicing the Sabbath conjure up images of the mother in Fiddler on the Roof preparing to light the Sabbath candles or of a very legalistic puritanical practice of the Sabbath such as described in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Or perhaps they have previously read popular books on the Sabbath such as Marva Dawn’s Keeping the Sabbath Wholly.  Often trying to keep the Sabbath feels awkward as individuals have not had an example of how to do so and do not know where to begin.   Furthermore, our culture never takes a break, even on Sundays.  MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s book Sabbath in the Suburbs describes one family’s experiment of keeping the Sabbath for one year.

Sabbath in the Suburbs begins by describing the seeds for the idea which took root during a pilgrimage to the Celtic monastery at Iona.  Dana and her husband both realized a change was needed in their busy, hectic lifestyle and decided to try keeping the Sabbath.  Dana describes their first attempts as “dabbling” and “hit or miss.”  Realizing this was not producing the desired results, Dana and her husband decide to commit to practicing the Sabbath for one year beginning in September.  Throughout the remainder of the book, Dana describes their family’s adventures in keeping Sabbath in the Suburbs.

Throughout the book, the reader feels like they have been invited to read Dana’s journal about their experiences with additional explanatory material provided.  If a reader is looking for a step by step guide to how or why to keep the Sabbath, keep looking for another book.  However, the reader who is genuinely interested in the experiences of a typical mainstream Protestant family will find Sabbath in the Suburbs enjoyable.  Granted, the Dana family does take some liberties with their practice of the Sabbath by primarily focusing on a “sabbathly” attitude to the day rather than a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts for the Sabbath.  They frequently experience schedule conflicts which require adjustments to their Sabbath-keeping and worry if keeping the Sabbath will be attainable as their children grow and have more weekend activities.  However, overall they declare their experiment worth continuing.

Anyone who desires a break from a crazy, hectic schedule may enjoy this book.   Readers of MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s Sabbath in the Suburbs will find the practice of Sabbath keeping less foreign and ritualistic and be encouraged to embark on their own Sabbath experiment.   Small groups, book clubs, Sunday School classes, or even entire churches, may find this a useful book to read and practice together, thus finding strength in numbers.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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