Sometimes, you start a book, it grabs you and
you don't stop reading, other than for eating, sleeping
and tasks, like baking sweet breads,
and the next thing you know,
you've ingested the book whole,
faster than you can even eat that wonderful
Nearly Orthodox was that book for me. At least this week.
Very well written,
save a few times of repetition that was not
as much a problem of poor writing but of personal and editorial taste.
It's a memoir, really; if you are looking for
a book about Orthodoxy and converting that
is more about facts or why Orthodoxy / Eastern Orthodox
Church is for you,
if you were reading this book as someone trying to
figure out your own path,,
it's either going to be a perfect book for you
or not the one at all, if it is something more rigorous....
But if it is memoir, if it is a woman's honest recalling and writing of
her struggles, her hang ups, of her personal journey,
than this one could be of help.
It could at least be an enjoyable read.
The closest I can get to categorizing this new-to-me author is
sort of an Anne Lamott for Orthodox,
but with her own story, no one elses. Not Anne's, only Angela's.
I would say that Angela D. C. is in a tradition that is more
focused/traditional than where Lamont is; but the vibe I get,
the memoir voice, this is the closest I can come to - as in the book
is mainly story, like Anne would write;
at first I thought this author was going to be imitating Kathleen Norris,
my personal first hero in the writing memoir field;
but while she quotes Norris in one chapter, I find that
Norris' work uses more sources and introduces you to more;
of course Norris' book is also about 1/3 to 1/2 larger than Carlson's.
Though, as I have been Orthodox over 12 years now,
(christmated August 8 2004), it could be that I am just so familiar with
the basics of Orthodoxy, that I did not feel introduced to as much.
So, why did I love it so much, why did it grab me,
why did I want to keep reading it?
First, it is very well written.
She weaves metaphors and story very well;
I did find at times in the second half of the book that she stumbled a bit
with repetition instead of taking us one step deeper in the story,
as if you were listening to a friend who tells such good stories
but forgot that she told you part of one already and uses it again.
Second, I could relate to her as an author and voice.
Now, she had a very different life and upbringing.
Cradle Catholic, Dad with PSTD after Korea and Vietnam,
a family broken, struggling, later divorced parents;
she tries so hard to make a life for herself when she leaves
her hurting home, she's honest about it,
how she found refuge and beauty in punk rock,
how she smoked cigarettes, how in her 40s she liked tattoos
(she's in her late 40s now, I am 1 month + some days from 40s
so I found this to be wonderful, hopeful)...
She does not want to reject her gay friends
(she learns that EO positions do not entail rejection
by having a traditional stance); she mentions yoga, lots of questions;
she has lots of
feminist woman questions; but she is working them out too;
I read quickly but carefully, looking for clues on how she was processing
the issues that are so hard and hot buttoned in our culture today;
I would say she lands pretty traditionally within Orthodoxy,
with a bit of ambiguity about the whole woman/feminist/should Orthodox change?
in one chapter; but she was pretty clear that she did not know exactly what to think
on it/how to articulate it and seems committed to Orthodoxy as a tradition that
is larger than her, that she may not fully understand and that
she is still committing too.
I really got that.
I understood her surprise at NOT being bothered by Orthodoxy and it's
"patriarchy" - I never did punk rock/was a music person or smoked - or - had
confused dysfunctional before marriage relationships (remember, she wandered,
she came home, she was a lot of things as she wandered home to Orthodoxy) ... no,
I was never any of that but a student in my twenties, and late teens,
with TONS of feminist questions, YES. I was THAT girl that only saw things
by feminist light (binaries etc). It took me a good 10 years about to work that through;
Kathleen Norris helped me a lot; as did studying Milton actually;
There I was, in love with Orthodoxy, ready to be married to it,
and not at all bothered about Eastern Orthodoxy being traditional;
even head-coverings, it just all evaporated for me.
So I could resonate with that surprising discovery of Angela's about
being able to become Orthodox after having such strong
I felt that in the chapter about Confession that the one thing she missed
in her narration was a sense of it as a Sacrament, as something that Happens,
that some how something is healed/relieved/happening
even though our confession list of our sins may not change that dramatically.
I loved how she dealt with her chapter on blood;
won't go into it here, but I liked it and found that she was not
flinching from hard questions.
My Husband laughed at me when I told him how this author
does not like to be told what to do
(a church that you wear a skirt for! I don't want to!!!),
So he laughed because, while I wear skirts noooo problem,
I really don't like being told what to do.
So in this way you could say I found a writer-soul mate,
save the fact that I think most humans are in the same boat :)...
but even as a child, I admit, that my Dad says,
I never liked being told what to do.
I liked that she sees that she can't force her Husband to have the same
journey she is on; in this she was like Kathleen Norris, who
was in a similar but different situation, with a husband who
was not really on the same exact spiritual trajectory.
I am finding that, even though I love Orthodoxy and am not only committed to it,
but find within it a fullness of truth that I have not found any where else,
that one cannot force another into the same path;
somehow everyone has their own path and often or perhaps always
only God can really discern what each person's life and path means....
I felt like I was reading a book by a woman who is,
while in process on many levels, is finding her voice,
finding her footing, finding her home in Orthodoxy
through struggle, through pain and writes about it.
So... that's all for the good, ... I would have one
cavat and that is that you should know your young teen, if you
are having a younger teen read this;
it would really depend on the person I think,
for what book is right for them;
it's a question of timing here, while she
never goes into details of her live-in boyfriend who she broke up with,
or in depth about being in a punk rock band,
I have a feeling it could be pretty crazy and gritty at times.
It's important to have timing right and to know
what is best to give a child to read.
I don't know that I would of given this to myself at, say, age 13,
but by age 17 or 18, if I had been ready for Orthodoxy,
and finding woman who were trying to be traditional Christians
and dealing with pain/questions/confusion, it may have helped;
hard to say; so, the book I just reviewed has a place,
but I would say if you are a Mother, read the book
and think on it before just handing it out,
but of course, I think, best case scenario,
that a parent should know and have a taste of what a child is reading
so they can do their best to relate and tap into where they are.
oh!!! and I should mention,
this author has home-schooled her children.
She's really quite diverse and covering
a lot of ground in her book. She's very much herself
and perhaps that's why I liked it so much,
she shared herself with us.