Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: "Something Other Than God" by Jennifer Fulwiler

Something Other Than God Jennifer Fulwiler
Published: April 29, 2014
ISBN: 9781586178826
Genre: Memoir, Christianity
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

Jennifer Fulwiler told herself she was happy. Why wouldn't she be? She made good money as a programmer at a hot tech start-up, had just married a guy with a stack of Ivy League degrees, and lived in a twenty-first-floor condo where she could sip sauvignon blanc while watching the sun set behind the hills of Austin.

Raised in a happy, atheist home, Jennifer had the freedom to think for herself and play by her own rules. Yet a creeping darkness followed her all of her life. Finally, one winter night, it drove her to the edge of her balcony, making her ask once and for all why anything mattered. At that moment everything she knew and believed was shattered.

Asking the unflinching questions about life and death, good and evil, led Jennifer to Christianity, the religion she had reviled since she was an awkward, skeptical child growing up in the Bible Belt. Mortified by this turn of events, she hid her quest from everyone except her husband, concealing religious books in opaque bags as if they were porn and locking herself in public bathroom stalls to read the Bible.

Just when Jennifer had a profound epiphany that gave her the courage to convert, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition—and the only treatment was directly at odds with the doctrines of her new-found faith. Something Other Than God is a poignant, profound and often funny tale of one woman who set out to find the meaning of life and discovered that true happiness sometimes requires losing it all.

My Thoughts:
I've been reading Jennifer Fulwiler's blog Conversion Diary for quite some time and had heard a broad summary of her story.  When I found out she was writing a book, I pre-ordered it immediately, wanting to know all about her journey.

That being said, I went into this book with a little bit of trepidation.  My experience with bloggers-turned-book writers has not always been successful and I was afraid that Fulwiler might fall into the less than successful category.  I am glad to say that she has made the transition from blogger to writer flawlessly.  She has a very readable style, one that differs from the conversational style she has on her blog (a style which is appropriate there, but would not be so in a book).

I was interested in how Fulwiler converted--so often, these conversion experiences are like a lightening bolt and--BOOM--all of a sudden you believe.  Fulwiler, however, details a different (and more realistic) experience.  She struggles with it and fights against it.  She starts as a very staunch atheist--she admits that, as a child, she found all the Bibles in the library and reshelved them in the fiction section--and ends up a hard-core Catholic.  Not only does she struggle with faith, but also with tenants of Catholicism that she had previously stood against, such as their stand on contraception and abortion.

This is not a fairy tale story.  It is the story of a woman on a journey who faces battles the entire way.  And it is a realistic portrait of a woman coming to faith.

I will admit that I have one "quibbling" complaint...and I can't really say it is about this book.  I will admit that I am not Catholic and I was raised in and still belong to a mainline Protestant Church.  I also have a degree in History and spent more than a few credit hours studying the Reformation.  I'm not questioning Fulwiler's experience or knocking the Catholic church in any way.  However there were a few comments made about non-Catholic denominations that are not completely correct.  I understand that these may come from things that Fulwiler learned while studying Catholicism and what she says is true to her own research. However, these statements are not factually true about the mainline Protestant denominations.  I don't want to go into detail about it here, as I want to leave these things up to the reader.  As I said, I can't knock Fulwiler's experience or even her writing, but it is something that a publisher should probably have caught (however, the book is put out by a Catholic publishing house, so there is that).

All in all, this was a fabulous book for anyone, believer or non-believer, Catholic or non-Catholic, to read and I highly recommend it.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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