Breaking Up With God: A Love Story by Sarah Sentilles

I accidentally double booked tours today! If you are here for the Thoughts Without Cigarettes post, check back later this afternoon. I want to spread out the posts to give them both the attention they deserve.

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I love memoirs. I believe that every person has a story to tell, the only question is if you can tell it well. I don’t hold much to the idea that a memoir should only be for someone who has had a truly remarkable life. Honestly, I believe any life is interesting. I know that there are plenty of people out there who disagree with this, but I have an insatiable curiosity for other perspectives and other people’s lives.

Breaking Up With God is the kind of religious memoir that I was hoping The View From the Back Pew would be. Originally very faithful, to the point of attending seminary school, Sentilles eventually cannot square the God she grew up with, a decidedly man-in-the-sky who punishes and rewards image, with the feminist perspective she has gained in seminary school.

Sentilles covers a lot of ground here, laying her entire life out on the table for us to see. It almost reads like a confession sometimes, with Sentilles revealing that she had anorexia and an abusive relationship before she left college. Later she goes on to talk about becoming a feminist and also a vegetarian, a supporter of gay marriage and a social activist.

I think Sentilles’s story is interesting and worth hearing. Her journey from a religious scholar to completely unsure in her beliefs is something that I relate to. So the question remains: how well is Sentilles’s story told? As I said, it’s confessional in nature, almost like an internal monologue, which ultimately makes sense. She is sharing an incredibly personal journey with us, but one that she had made a career of making public. In a way, Sentilles is accomplishing exactly what she went to seminary school to do, to minister, though admittedly a significantly different type of preaching than she imagined.

At times I thought the narration to be a little disorganized, and if I’m honest, sometimes melodramatic. But at the same time, much of this story takes place when Sentilles is a teenager and young adult. She reflects that age very well, where every decision you make seems like the most difficult and you’re never sure of yourself, even if it is frustrating to read sometimes.

Overall, I enjoyed this memoir. I learned about theology and at the same time got to see the transition and journey that Sentilles makes. I think that’s a successful memoir, even if the writing is not perfect and at times it drifts into melodrama.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to read and review! For more information about the tour, please go to this link

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13 thoughts on “Breaking Up With God: A Love Story by Sarah Sentilles

  1. I actually don’t read a lot of memoirs, but that’s more of a time thing than a preference thing. But I’m with you–I don’t think one has to have done something earth-shattering to tell their story. In fact, I think that in most ways I enjoy the “average” person’s story more than the famous person’s, because I can relate more and learn more about growing in my own little world. (Okay, not really sure that makes sense when I put it in words, but I swear it makes sense in my head. 😛 )

  2. I’m with Debi, above, and with you. I love hearing an average person’s story. I think we all have something to say and a unique perspective on life. Great review, Lu. Thank you so much for being on the tour. And super huge apologies for the double booking of the date!

  3. Have you read The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong? Her memoirs of being a nun are amazing and extremely worth reading if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind review of my book! I am grateful for your time and attention. And what a gift to read your statement that the writing of the book is a kind of ministry. I also appreciate your notion that everyone has a right to tell her/his story. I find it interesting that when women write memoirs, they are often called “self-centered” or “navel gazers.” But when men write similar books, they win big awards. The Illiad, anyone? The Odyssey? I think it is part of sexism to belittle women’s experiences when they dare to speak up and speak out. Many thanks for your review!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting here! I love to hear from authors, especially when I’m on a tour. I think there’s a general distaste for memoirs at the moment, especially after a couple articles in papers like the NYT a couple months ago, but I think the criticism is misguided. The bias you mention, about women being “navel gazers” and men just being literary is there, but I also think that the criticism against memoirs is as a genre rather than individually with each book. Really it’s the writing. I think the same is true of YA fiction, which is regularly regarded as somehow “less” worthy than adult fiction, when really there are YA books that are excellent. You could say this is true of any and all genres at some point and I think that memoirs are, currently, the genre to beat up on.

  5. I just read Lee Kravitz’s Unfinished Business, and made a very similar criticism to the one that Sarah considers to be mostly directed at women. It seems to me that all memoirs have a bit of the “self-centered” vibe – how can they not? – but in some, it can be merely a minor chord, and in others it seems to be a major theme.

    I have not read this one yet, but I may. As a woman who has had to “grow” my picture of God from the sadly deficient one that organized religions present, I have to say, feminist theologians are often my best friends. Breaking up with God? I’d rather break up with the theologians that produced the Old Guy With A Beard.

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