Some of you might know, I have a minor hobby of writing book reviews on Amazon. Hobby is stretching it, because my filter for writing reviews is rather thick. The first filter is simply how many reviews have already been written and can I add anything. I’m pompous enough to think I can write a very good review, but if there are already 100’s to 1000’s, why? In the same way, if it isn’t in a subject from my expertise, why would I comment? The second layer of that filter is I really only review books where I can in good conscience give five stars or give one star. I prefer calling out excellent books. And that doesn’t mean books that I always agree with. What it means is books that are worth the investment of time. If I happen to stumble across a book that makes me say “I want that 10 hours of my life back”, I will also write that review. The last niche is, I guess, because I’ve written enough quality reviews I’ve been included on the Amazon Vine. If Amazon sends me something for free, I review it. It is part of the deal.
This had been on my radar for a while, and then it popped up on sale for the kindle for $2.99. As of this writing, it is still at that price, link here. What follows is my review which I gave a hardy 5 stars.
Susan Isaacs has written a very good book. It is both an entertaining read and surprisingly deep. The reviewer’s question is how to describe that.
First the author is primarily an actress or even more narrowly a sketch comedic actress with serious improv skills. That background is the ground of why this book is so entertaining. It is not a traditional narrative nor does it have unduly long and introspective sections. The author’s command of what is the core emotional point, where is the heart-rending funny and quick pacing keep the book moving and entertaining.
The surprising depth comes from two points. The first is that the author, like any great comedian, is unflinching when going for the jugular. What makes that amazing is the she is going after God’s jugular and her own. In mythical language this is a modern day Jacob wrestling with God through the night. The second depth is that even though this is the tale of “middle-class white girl problems” as the author calls it, they are her problems and they force what Christianity would call a dark night of the soul. The humor of that juxtaposition is not lost on the author, but she tells her story with such vim and pathos that you recognize the universal condition. At one point she summarizes her problem as “the man who’s stuck in the desert because God put him there looks exactly like the man who’s stuck in the desert because he’s lost. And I don’t know which one I am. I don’t know if I’m here to find friendship with God, or if I’ve been left to die (loc 2924).”
What starts as a potential cliché of marriage counseling with God becomes a lively and deeply honest wrestling. Does this faith that the author has carried since childhood as a gift from her mother die, or is it cleansed, renewed and blessed? What emerges from the book is both a picture of a mature and maturing faith and a highly personal and living faith. And that is hidden in, with and under the form of a funny read.