…[is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. – C.S. Lewis
I’m not sure when I started reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog, Conversion Diary, but two things I’m fairly certain of are that it was during Nathan’s first year of life and I found it by way of a homemaking website, not a faith-based one. I wasn’t subscribed to a lot of faith-based blogs in those days; in fact, I’m pretty sure Jennifer’s was the first.
As a convert myself, I’ve read a number of books about other’s conversions, and while bits and pieces of each one stuck with me, until recently I’d never found one that I really connected with (Cari Donaldson’s Pope Awesome and Other Stories is one notable exception, but it’s part conversion, part Catholic living). Many of the others I’ve read, whether books or brief retellings on the endless websites I perused in the early 2000s, were either too deep, too dry, or too simple for me to really get into (yes, I am sure my book club hates me because I drive them mad with my slicing and dicing…) But Jennifer’s recently released memoir, Something Other Than God, is different.
Something Other Than God is the book I was searching for.
Jennifer was an atheist, and not in the decided-to-flake-out-on-God-during-college way. Growing up, her family put greater credence in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos than the Bible – an oddity for a family in Texas, and pretty much as far from my Southern-Baptist-with-a-dash-of-Presbyterian childhood experience as one can get. The opening scene of her book, though, when she went to summer camp and was encouraged to “get saved” connected with me, as I was witness to similar scenes in my own childhood growing up in the Bible Belt.
But other aspects of the book touched me, as well.
Some of the Catholic Church’s teachings are hard. Really hard. Especially when, like me, you grew up in a tradition that doesn’t teach the same things (ahem…contraception…ahem). I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that one of the things I liked most about Jennifer’s book is that she’s what most people would say is a textbook “exception” to one of the Church’s most challenging teachings, yet she remains faithful, even when it’s hard.
For someone like me, with what sometimes feels like more than my share of challenges, her story encourages me to continue pressing on.
From years reading her blog, I know that Jennifer is both intelligent and relatable, and those qualities are apparent in the book, as well. She’s the kind of person my mom would call “a smart person who doesn’t seem smart,” which is to say that she’s just like one of the gang, but with tremendous insight few of us have.
- If you’re considering converting to the Catholic church, read it.
- If you want to understand why a friend or family member left another faith tradition and became Catholic, read it.
- If you’re a cradle Catholic who wants a spiritual “shot in the arm,” read it.
While Jennifer’s story is compelling on its face, her honesty, humor, and openness make Something Other Than God a must-read.
———-I was not provided a free copy of the book, was not asked to write a review, and I’ve left exactly six comments on her blog in three-ish years – I just really loved the book and wanted to share it with you. However, links to the books are affiliate links; clicking them to purchase will put a few pennies in the kids’ therapy jar.