Ben and I listened to our monthly Lighthouse CD entitled From Atheism to Catholicism, which featured Jennifer Fulwiler’s honest and candid conversion story; naturally I was intrigued, but even more so when I saw on the back of the CD jacket a teaser for her upcoming memoir, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It. At first, I dismissed it as a book I would “someday” read, since it seemed interesting and yet I wasn’t entirely certain how much it would differ from her verbal conversion story.
Fast forward to a week ago when I stumbled across Fulwiler’s blog, and somehow her book was being launched the next day, so she and her publisher were hosting this mega-launching party that was too enticing to miss. I somewhat impulsively (but justifiably) purchased the memoir in hopes to gain an iota of a chance at one of the many prizes offered, but I also knew I would ravenously devour her story simply based on the title alone.
Little did I realize just how enraptured I would become by her gifted capability at storytelling, which opens during her childhood as she lived with an openly atheist father and questionably agnostic mother, and then it sequentially leads up to and through her ultimate conversion to Catholicism well into her adult years. While it’s no secret that I’m an avid reader of memoirs – mainly because I find it fascinating to read about other people’s lives of adversity and hope – this one particularly captured my constant interest due to the uniqueness of an atheist’s journey specifically to Catholicism.
Fulwiler brilliantly and humbly describes her innermost thoughts and emotions that showcased the very difficult truths she came to accept about Catholicism when atheism was so ingrained in her identity from her first memories as a child. Fulwiler doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat her journey in any way, as some skeptics may assume happens to converts. She frankly and, at times sordidly, admits wrestling with the difficulty of accepting the concept of a loving God in light of how horrific sufferings happen to holy people, including innocent children. But she doesn’t address this in the typical cliched manner; instead, she delves into very personal accounts of tragedies that struck her family and how she was able to eventually reconcile her perplexity and pain into a liberating and healing embrace of a loving Heavenly Father.
It is a beautiful conversion story rife with pieces of Providence, which some might mistakenly label as coincidence, yet the manner in which Fulwiler describes these seemingly ordinary incidents is simplistic and profound, in that the reader is moved to the reality of hope in a God who cares about the details of our lives, even and especially when that love is unrequited by humanity.
I found Fulwiler’s entire journey to be so riveting that parts of her life reminded me of aspects of my own story that would add vibrancy and detail to my personal memoir; in this sense, she acted as my muse as I feverishly took notes while reading her story. To mention a mere recommendation of this book seems trite and incomplete; my suggestion is that anyone who is searching for meaning, anyone who loves memoirs, and certainly anyone whose faith exists anywhere on the spectrum of lukewarm to devout to read Fulwiler’s story and prepare to experience spiritual depth and richness in your own journey.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing