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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Talk: *Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis*, by Lauren Winner (Shelf Awareness review)


Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
Lauren Winner
HarperOne, 2012 (January 31) hardcover (ISBN 0061768111 / 9780061768118)
Nonfiction/memoir/spirituality, 272 pages

A version of this review was originally published in Shelf Awareness, Readers' Edition (January 31, 2012); SA's editors provided compensation and a galley of the book. The cover image links to IndieBound.org. I am an IndieBound affiliate.

Lauren Winner told the story of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity in her first memoir, 2002's Girl Meets God. A decade later, the fervor of the conversion experience has faded, and as she struggles to cope with the death of her mother and the demise of a marriage that perhaps never should have happened, the faith that she would have expected to sustain her through these challenges seems to have escaped her as well. In Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Winner chronicles her experience with that particular, unexpected loss--and, as the subtitle implies, how she found her way back.

Winner’s story reflects two of the meanings of its title: “still” as both a holding in place and an enduring over time. The book's structure follows its subtitle; it's a series of brief reflections over the course of the year in which she ends her marriage and gratefully learns that her relationship with God is not ending along with it. Rather, it's arrived at the place where the biggest part of it will be spent.

Beginnings and endings are easier to define and to process, but most of life is lived in the middle--and the middle is where we seem most likely to become lost. Winner writes thoughtfully and eloquently about finding herself in the middle and accepting her place there. Still is not prescriptive; Winner is not telling the reader how to address a faith crisis, particularly one that comes at the same time as some other crisis, but her insights may be helpful to those who have reached their own middles.

Book description, from the publisher's website:
In the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, Lauren F. Winner chronicled her sojourn from Judaism to Christianity. Now, in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Winner describes how experiences of loss and failure unexpectedly slam her into a wall of doubt and spiritual despair: “My belief has faltered, my sense of God’s closeness has grown strained, my efforts at living in accord with what I take to be the call of the gospel have come undone.”
Witty, relatable, and fiercely honest, Winner lays bare her experience of what she calls the “middle” of the spiritual life. In elegant and spare prose, she explores why—in the midst of the overwhelming anxiety, loneliness, and boredom of her deepest questioning about where (or if) God is—the Christian story still explains who she is better than any other story she’s ever known. Still is an absorbing meditation combining literary grace with spiritual wisdom. It is sure to resonate with anyone looking to sustain a spiritual life in the midst of real life.