I don't suppose that readers of this blog need any introduction to Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary, who when she isn't blogging and hosting 7 Quick Takes, organizing and speaking at conferences, and raising and home-educating six kids, has apparently found the time to write a wonderful, compelling memoir detailing her conversion from atheism to Catholicism.
I'm a longtime reader and fan of Jen's blog, and when I heard that the book was finally getting released, I was really excited to get it, but also curious about how much of it would actually be "new" to me. The answer: a lot. In telling her story in Something Other Than God, Jen offers a unique and uniquely appealing portrait of her life, colorfully detailing the various events and characters--and the Author--who have made her who she is.
Simply put, Jen is an amazing writer and her storytelling is both graceful and captivating. I was drawn into the book and enthralled from the get-go. As a busy, pregnant mom of three young kids, I loved the short, bite-sized chapters, since it felt good to actually be able to get through a chapter in one sitting (hiding from the kids for as long as they would play peacefully). I could barely stop myself from starting a new chapter, and I pretty much didn't put the book down for the 48 hours that it took me to read it. (Mike actually got to it first on the day that it arrived, and he literally didn't put it down that night until he had finished it, 3.5 hours later, which was way past his bedtime.)
The love story between Jen and her husband, Joe, is a beautiful depiction of how God works through human love and sacrifice to reveal Himself to us in His own time. They are perfectly matched, since it is the combination of her questioning and his underdeveloped faith that serves as the catalyst for their shared journey of conversion.
I loved how the book's many anecdotes put the reader inside Jen's head at various points in the process of her conversion, illustrating God's presence in her life even when she didn't realize it at the time. Whether it's her reflections on purgatory while listening to Tupac Shakur and reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, her experience of an intense deposition that gives her new insight into evil, or her discovery of an old letter about her grandfather that
helps her to grapple with the problem of human suffering, you get to
re-live it all right alongside of her.
Jen also does a stellar job of dealing with many difficult/controversial topics without being pedantic or overloading the reader with hard-to-understand doctrinal detail. She had to wrestle with some pretty heavy issues in order to enter with full heart and mind into communion with the Catholic Church--subjects like the existence of God, abortion, contraception, and human suffering are all dealt with in a powerful but insightful way as Jen leads you through the experiences that changed her heart.
Something Other Than God is a wonderful account of conversion and of a life touched by God and by others. Jen clearly captures the struggles that she had in turning to God, and her retelling of how she worked through these struggles is likely to impact anyone who shares them, especially those without belief in God. For believers on the other side of these struggles, the book provides an inspiring story of God's grace, and it is a marvelous reminder (and perhaps a divine nudge) to keep seeking God and to keep advancing spiritually. Jen's love for Christ and zeal for the faith are palpable and cannot but touch each reader's heart in some way. So if you don't do anything else
this summer, at the very least, do yourself the favor of reading Something Other Than God (and maybe get one for a friend or family member, too).