By Darcey Steinke. Bloomsbury, $24.95.
The kind of spiritual memoir that novelist Steinke (Milk, Suicide Blonde) is after is markedly different from the come-to-Jesus tomes that adorn the front tables of Christian bookstores. Steinke is a conflicted Christian who’s wary of didacticism. Throughout, she dodges preaching and instead stakes the book to the resonance of her story.
Steinke’s dad was a roving Lutheran minister and her mother a former beauty queen susceptible to bouts of depression. As a kid, Steinke was a precocious little zealot, baptizing cats on the street. The details of childhood tend to sag the book from the beginning, and when Steinke enters adult relationships, the book feels more scintillatingly tell-all than it does spiritually telling.
But Steinke rescues the book in its final stages when she battles her own depression, takes an authentic approach to reconciling her feelings about religion, and approaches faith again with trepidation but not cynicism. In confronting a nun with an uncle’s tragic death—using it as a litmus test for an active God—her frustration is natural: “I can’t make horror into anything else. I can’t flow through it.” Her revelations are small and particular to her—rare for a book like this. Such a light hand makes her transformation something we can believe.—Jonathan Messinger