I almost always enjoy reading conversions stories as a full length book. While you usually find certain commonalities there are also aspects that flow from the uniqueness of individuals. Grace shines off the facets that can make such stories familiar and new.
In this case I am referring to Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler.
The broad outline of here conversion story first took a public face when she decided when still an atheist to start a blog. She had questions about religion and wanted to see if there were actually any answers regarding this. To interact with others via the comment section and emails.
I had thought I had known her conversion story and most of the details of it. I remembered reading her posts she she wrote at The Reluctant Atheist and subsequently Et tu, Jen? prior to her entrance into the Catholic Church. She currently blogs at Conversion Diary.
So going in I found that while there was familiar territory in her story there was also much more to the story. From the start of the book I was totally engaged in how she relates her story. She really brings you into her life and some of the events surrounding her atheism and how it expressed itself as a child. How she came to grips with the fact that her non-belief in God was at odds with most of the other children she knew.
What so hooked me in her telling of her story was just how much you are invited in to both her struggles and her joys and consequently into her family. There is a very difficult struggle in going from an established atheistic view to admitting that just possibly there is something to consider on the other side of the divide. That even when there is a reconsideration of atheism and a movement towards faith that there is a fear you are losing your reason and going after something squishy. The problems where when intellectually you are increasingly satisfied there is still the divide between intellectual belief and acting on that belief.
The only thing I found lacking was that really I wanted more details regarding some aspects of her conversion. Although I totally understood why she didn’t go into them. It is a difficult balance to write about conversion while not going into every details regarding family relationships and demands of privacy. When Jennifer Fulwiler participated in a three-part reality show called Minor Revisions I was very intrigued with her relationship with her father who remains an atheists. The book goes partially into her very positive relationship with her father and his encouragement in her seeking the truth wherever it leads. Still she is also very frank about the conversations that came up between her and her husband and the struggles they had. Especially as she was coming to faith and he was starting to take his faith seriously. One of the reasons I so enjoy conversion stories is seeing real people live out the demands of the faith amidst everyday life.
The conversational tone of her writing along with the humor throughout takes on serious subjects while allowing you to think and laugh as you proceed through the book. I certainly found that my reading sessions of this book were prolonged where I was always thinking, “I will just read another page or two before I put it down for the night.” Even if conversion stories are not usually your taste, you will probably find that this one just might be. If you are looking for a book to give an atheist that is a more difficult question. The experience of atheist converts is often disregarded by atheists. Plus each person is different and are on various parts of a journey. So I would suggest reading it yourself and seeing if it would be helpful for a specific individual.
One aspect that I found difficult in writing this review is that I identified with so many points of her experience. As someone who had also from childhood identified as an atheist along with some similar aspects in family life. The difficulty is that I wanted to avoid writing about myself in reviewing this book. So I will let this last-paragraph intrusion of my ego be the extent of it.