Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time.

United States of Grace: A Memoir of Homelessness, Addiction, Incarceration, and Hope

Lenny Duncan. Broadleaf, $22.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-5064-6406-0

In this passionate memoir, Lutheran pastor and social justice advocate Duncan (Dear Church) shares his unconventional life journey in order to illustrate the beauty and horror of life in the United States and the possibilities of God’s grace. Duncan, a Black man, begins with his harrowing childhood, during which he coped with the manifold traumas of racism, poverty, abuse, and family addictions. In his teenage years, he lived as a homeless “queer Black teen on the streets of America,” and as a young adult struggled with addiction and served time for a low-level drug offense. Duncan’s narrative dwells not on the salacious details of what he terms “poverty porn,” but instead on what his experiences say about the country that created his circumstances. He is fierce in both his criticism of America’s institutions and his love for its people. He also traces his interactions with God, who he encountered as a young person in the kindness of strangers and now finds in the fight against America’s evils: “There seems to be some force in the universe—I call it Grace or God, but whatever it is for you is cool with me—that is highly interested in... saving our collective asses.” This lyrical testament to life as “a blind date with mercy” will challenge and inspire. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Satisfied: Finding Hope, Joy, and Contentment Right Where You Are

Alyssa Joy Bethke. Worthy, $27.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5460-3404-9

Bethke (coauthor, Love That Lasts), blogger and cohost of The Real-Life podcast, weighs in on the value of intimate friendships, community, and gathering around the table in her pleasing solo debut. These brief essays encourage Christian women to make their home a welcome place by focusing on gratitude, hope, peace, joy, and contentment. Bethke identifies expectations that distract women from experiencing joy, exploring the deleterious effects of body image self-consciousness, loneliness, unhealthy comparisons, and social media overload. She reminds readers they are never forgotten or unseen, and by finding their true identity in God they can be assured they are enough: “I am learning the beauty of his strength in my weakness.” In sharing her own parenting troubles, business failures, and marital strife, Bethke describes her struggles with fear and how she accepted the challenge of confronting it: “We have a choice to choose fear or choose faith.” Referring to the Psalms, she emphasizes finding hope even during times of grief and the value of learning to treasure the small things, and ends with a list of recipes to help make one’s home a welcoming space. Christian women will find comfort for both the soul and body in Bethke’s encouraging words. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Wild Soul Runes: Reawakening the Ancestral Feminine

Lara Veleda Vesta. Weiser, $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-57863-739-3

Artist Vesta (The Moon Divas Oracle) suggests in this colorful guide ways to build a “source wisdom partnership” with runes from the Elder Futhark and Anglo-Northumbrian alphabets. Vesta grounds readers with a brief overview of Northern European history, particularly the culture of Norse and Anglo-Saxon peoples and their spiritual connection to their ancestors. She explains the runes’ power through the concept of wyrd—a universal “fabric” containing “the essence of all creation... life force, energy, gestation, birth, destruction”—and explores the origins of the runes, tying them to the Norns (“triple goddesses” of Norse mythology) and concluding that “the runes are sacred feminine magic, held in the trust-memory of prehistoric, Old European civilizations.” She recommends beginning with a ritual to connect with one’s female ancestral lineage, offering tools for the contemplation of each rune, among them a simple circular pattern, a series of questions to ask the rune, and one or more rune poems. The poems are delivered first in a popular 19th-century translation, and then in Vesta’s often awkward translation: “River’s mouth is made perfect bragging.” Vesta also includes black-and-white illustrations of rune patterns to aid readers in creating their own at home. Anyone interested in European mythology will find Vesta’s philosophy and method refreshing. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Why Do I Feel Like This?: Understand Your Difficult Emotions and Find Grace to Move Through

Peace Amadi. InterVarsity, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8308-4772-3

Psychologist Amadi debuts with a soothing guide that aims to reassure readers that, no matter how one is feeling, “it’s okay that you feel this way.” Amadi begins with the concept of “spiritual bypassing,” or the use of Christian platitudes to avoid deep emotional work. Yet difficult emotions need healing and healing takes work, she argues, and that is done through self-love: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mental health professional, it’s that you can’t hate yourself into healing. You have to love yourself right on through it.” She bolsters her insights with stories from her own life, clients’ stories, biblical examples, charts, and checklists of activities to encourage growth. For instance, to overcome trauma, she recommends answering five questions to clearly define one’s experience, unearth one’s feelings, and determine one’s current needs. Especially helpful is her chapter on envy, which focuses on “enoughness” and suggests affirmations (“You are worthy”) to embolden readers. This is an excellent primer on difficult emotions and a vigorous call to work through them to heal and grow. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
On Her Knees: Memoir of a Prayerful Jezebel

Brenda Marie Davies. Eerdmans, $22 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-80287-853-3

Davies debuts with an introspective account of her journey through religious purity into sexual freedom. She speaks out against the idea that sexual activity reduces one’s value, or that what one chooses to experience with a committed partner should be of concern to any potential future partner. Davies, who grew up a devout Christian, rails against the notion that a woman’s body is property or that having sex is to “give it up.” “Sex is an experience to be shared, not an unarmed robbery,” she writes. Davies saved herself until her early 20s, only to go to bed with a man on the second date—an experience that made her ditch the fairy tale sensibility in favor of what she felt was a genuine, natural desire. With no expectations, she married the man despite many red flags of his obsessiveness and infidelity. After they separated, her self-described “trampage” opened her eyes to sexual freedom and reunited her with her body—which she felt she lost in constantly striving for religious purity. Though some traditionalists will bristle at the premise, it’ll provide much food for thought for Christian women who have questioned the restrictions and expectations set upon their bodies. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos

Sohrab Ahmari. Convergent, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-13717-8

New York Post opinion editor Ahmari (From Fire by Water) argues in this sweeping work that the West needs to re-engage more meaningfully with religious traditions in order to flourish. He asks 12 questions about the nature and duties of life that “confident, progressive modernity should readily be able to answer” but cannot (such as “How Do You Justify Your Life?” and “Can You Be Spiritual Without Being Religious?”), and offers his own replies, drawing from a wide range of eras, traditions, and thinkers, including second-century Gnostic Christian Marcion, Confucius, English theologian John Henry Newman, and feminist writer Andrea Dworkin. He pushes the view of God as rational through the work of Thomas Aquinas, and the need for a day of rest with the life and writing of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Ahmari argues being spiritual but not religious lacks “existential seriousness” and fails to bind community the way rituals associated with religion can and should. He uses Alexander Solzhenitsyn to question unchecked freedom of liberalism and Seneca to teach about the good death. While Ahmari’s arguments are intriguing, he is more concerned with telling a story than engaging with his points. Secularists will disagree with Ahmari’s basic argument, but those who worry about the decline of religion will appreciate this adamant call to return. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
In Step with Quaker Testimony: Simplicity, Truth, Equality and Peace—Inspired by Margaret Fell’s Writings

Joanna Godfrey Wood. Christian Alternative, $10.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-78904-577-2

Wood (Traveling in the Light), a practicing Quaker, unpacks in this accessible work essential Quaker beliefs and the florid writing style of Margaret Fell (1614–1702), the “mother of Quakerism.” The author explains her first reading of Fell as revelatory, and parses Fell’s prolific writings to explain the profound inner conviction that is central to Quakerism. Wood teases out other Quaker fundamentals—simplicity, truth, equality, and peace—that Quakers call “testimonies” and Wood finds rooted in Fell’s thought. Explaining how Quakerism revolves around the notion “that beliefs cannot be nailed down” and can only be understood through questioning, Wood illuminates how spiritual understandings range from seeing “God as a human construct” to “the Christian Quaker who even perhaps refers to the Trinity.” She paraphrases selections of Fell’s writing and expounds on common themes: “The word ‘Light’—used by early Quakers to convey all that is mysterious or ineffable—reveals Truth.” Ultimately, Wood can only offer her own personal testimony of Quakerism and shows her aim as a person of faith is “wholeness,” but she concedes that she is a “work in progress.” While the author intends to explain basic Quaker ideas to those first encountering the faith, even readers familiar with foundational Quaker writings will benefit from this glowing overview. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Glimmers of Grace: A Doctor’s Reflections on Faith, Suffering, and the Goodness of God

Kathryn Butler. Crossway, $17.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4335-7048-3

Butler (Between Life and Death) shares insightful observations about God and faith based on her work as a trauma and critical care surgeon. To better understand her part in the lives and deaths of her patients, she learned to rely on God’s plan even in dire situations: “Any good news in the hospital is a glimmer of God’s grace.” Butler shares how her own faith was forged from despair, explaining how overwork and the death of a close patient led to suicidal thoughts. Realizing that even Jesus at times felt cut off from God, her spiraling thoughts brought her close to God: “When our eyes fail to discern evidence of God love, we can cling to the truth that Christ knows our suffering, because he endured it too.” Reading the Bible marked the beginning of her spiritual recovery, and she outlines stories and lessons that spoke to her—particularly David’s lament in Psalm 22 to love God even when all seems forsaken. Butler details both harrowing stories of sickness and unexpected recoveries, citing many biblical passages that have given hope to the ailing, but the book’s greatest strength lies in the fluid, evocative writing: “When we despair in the dark of a hospital room, or hover in the silent wake of a life vanished, we can reap solace from Christ.” Devout Christians will benefit most from Butler’s words of comfort. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
A Partial Enlightenment: What Modern Literature and Buddhism Can Teach Us About Living Well Without Perfection

Avram Alpert. Columbia Univ., $30 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-0-231-20003-5

Alpert (Global Origins of the Modern Self), a professor of writing at Princeton, examines Buddhist thought across world literature in this pleasant outing. Asserting that novels that incorporate a “modern global Buddhism” can function as a guide for living out Buddhist beliefs in a chaotic world, Alpert considers characters who have “moved past the desire for complete resolution” and who can “appreciate the minor insights and partial enlightenments.” He mulls over references to enlightenment in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1900) and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), which link enlightenment with the politics of empire: “the merit you accrue for” helping the empire “help[s] you become enlightened yourself in a future cycle of existence.” Reincarnation is addressed in the novels of J.M. Coetzee, Yukio Mishima, and Jamyang Norbu, which consider living a good life in the present. Alpert considers themes of personal and political liberation through transformation in Cuban writer Severo Sarduy’s Cobra, and illustrates how authenticity of character is an evolving process through close readings of J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey (1955) and Zadie Smith’s The Autograph Man (2002). Buddhist students and literature lovers will find much to ponder in Alpert’s close textual readings. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Faithful Presence: The Promise and the Peril of Faith in the Public Square

Bill Haslam. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-400224-42-5

Former Tennessee governor Haslam debuts with a host of suggestions for ways religious Americans can get meaningfully involved in politics. Haslam shares his concern about the country’s deep divide, but writes that “people of faith can and should play a leading role in healing the wounds of this country.” He concedes that achieving that aim is an uphill climb, because “too often the words and actions of Christians have done more to inflict those wounds than to heal them.” Haslam uses anecdotes from his public service—such as his veto of a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book—to illustrate how he balanced his official responsibilities and his private beliefs, and considers various aspects of his faith, such as the importance of humility when engaging those with different political and cultural leanings. Haslam urges readers to do away with “reacting out of fear” and instead follow the “formational practices of following Jesus” to “serve in the public square for the common good.” His insistence that every person must be viewed as having been made in God’s image informs his perspective on dialogue with others. Readers open to thinking about the relationship between church and state will benefit from this sensible advice. (May)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time for assistance.

Not Registered? Click here.