Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Night Driving - by Addie Zierman: Book Review

This is a finding-the-God-I-used-to-know kind of book. You keep reading the author's woe over and over: I used to feel God, but now I don't anymore. Coming with the baggage (or blessing) of an American adolescence in the 90s, filled with Christian activities that encouraged teenagers to just love God, and to be on fire for Him, the adult author is left to deal with the presence (or absence) of God when she no longer feels God, and when the specific cliches and lingo no longer cut it. The author gives glimpses into her past just enough to let the reader get the full idea of why she decided to go on a road trip just to maybe rekindle the fire she once had within her heart. Repeatedly she underlines how she was close to God, how she longed for Him, and how it was all good. Sounds like a broken record, but aren't so all those who keep looking for that which they can't fully express into words? To know you had it all in Him, and then you are on the exact opposite of that feeling.

The book is divided into four main parts. The first two tell of her journey from her home in Minnesota to Florida, and the last two parts of the journey from Florida back home. I'm a sucker for the idea of a road-trip, add to that an honest memoir about chasing God, and I'm your reader. 

Besides being a Christian just like herself, I have zero things in common with the author (of whom I knew nothing before reading this book), and still I was struck by the familiarity and the close to home hit of some passages. At times it reminded me of Searching for Sunday (maybe because it's the only book on this theme I've read in the last year?), but Night Driving is more mature. Although it has little Bible passages, it doesn't come up with biblical ideas, it's not set to offer advice on how the Church should be reorganized to fit into the 21st century, this is a book that I enjoyed reading tremendously; it's just a person's quest for what she once had, without any other pretense.

At times I was reading this like a good coming of age story, except it was a coming to grounded faith again story. I was worried she had set off on her road trip, kids in tow, and she was turning back home without the answer she was looking for. Can you tell I was invested in this? Can you tell this reader is, too, looking for some answers? I loved what the "conclusion" of the book was: no high voltage spiritual enlightment, but what she knew all along, but suddenly it made more sense. Funny how that happens! Love doesn’t always look like romance and faith doesn’t look like fire and light doesn’t always look like the sun—and that this matters. (...) God is as close as the air around us, as true as the North Star leading me home. In the dark Kentucky plain, my eyes adjust, and there is so much that I can’t see—and also so much that I can. Mostly that the darkness was never really dark. And that it was never my job to turn on the lights. (...) I know that God is real. And it’s not because I feel him. It’s because the night is dark and bright all at once, because the stars are an infinite repeating liturgy lighting the way back home. I know because I know. It’s as simple and mysterious as that

I loved how subtly, over the length of the book, she keeps returning to the audio book she's been listening to while driving. The similarities she finds between Mamah Borthwick of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and herself are as well noted as the stages of the February moon she keeps refering to. Two small elements I didn't pay attention to in the beginning, but as I kept reading they were ever-present until the very end.

Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely! No one is more surprised by this than me. You leave this book with the feeling of being understood, that you're not alone during those apparent patches of darkness and loneliness. It's poetic and nicely written, it's honest and open.

I received a copy of the ebook version of this from Crown Publishing via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

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