Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost Paperback – Aug 26 2011
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Christian fundamentalism has always been an obliging source of cultural caricature. Believers in the literal truth of the Christian Scriptures strike many a secular modern as delusional, censorious and often dangerously undemocratic souls―whether they're the querulous anti-intellectual yahoos of 'Inherit the Wind' or the home audiences who throng to the televisual gospel of 'The 700 Club.'… Carolyn Briggs's straightforward, vividly written and moving account of her adult life as a fundamentalist convert goes a long way toward dislodging such stereotypes. (The Instrumentalist)
Sincere and humble. An archetype of the female story in which there is an awakening, usually in a woman's late 30s or 40s, when she realizes she is trapped in a script that was written by someone else. (San Francisco Chronicle)
What makes This Dark World an exceptional book is that as clear-eyed as Briggs is about her experience (she was a deeply religious Christian for more than 20 years), she also fully understands the ways in which her religion benefited and enriched her. Anyone can reject true believers as mindless Bible thumpers, but Briggs never takes that route; her hard-earned sophistication about spiritual matters isn't hollow. (Salon)
So what do you do with yourself when you've dedicated your life to Jesus at 18, and then, 20 years later, find that a life dedicated to the Lord is not all it's cracked up to be? That's the question Carolyn Briggs attempts to answer in her elegant memoir, This Dark World. It is a rare portrait from the vantage point of the believer, and Briggs unflinchingly documents her faith―in its first bloom, when she finds God―and then her growing disillusionment. (Los Angeles Times)
Briggs's memoir is a riveting page-turner that rings emotionally true, as well as a brave contribution to a growing literature that tells the extraordinary stories of supposedly ordinary women. (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
Carolyn S. Briggs is associate professor of English at Marshalltown Community College in Marshalltown, Iowa. She adapted her memoir into the screenplay Higher Ground.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I finished the story yesterday and can't get it out of my mind. The writer is extremely gifted. She opens up a world I knew nothing about, other than what I had seen on TV or had encountered by "born again Christians" accosting me with the question, "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?"
I found myself understanding the religious people who populated the writer's world. I was touched by the love the women shared. I was moved by their faith in God. I found myself longing for relationships that were so open and giving. I wondered how she was ever going to leave this life. But when she did, I totally understood why. I was right there in her corner. Her metamorphosis was beautifully illustrated.
I am, however, left wondering if life is actually so black and white, if it needs to be one way or the other, if God needed to get the boot entirely in order for our protagonist to embrace a life of intellectual endeavor. But isn't that exactly what a good story does, leaves one pondering and savoring and questioning what has just been read?
But the book bears very, very little resemblance to the movie.
That said, the book is written with great clarity, if not flair, and with gripping sincerity. The book is evenly paced and reads smoothly, carrying the reader along with a conversational tone. The characters are rendered three-dimensionally, conflicted, yet genuine.
But it lacks expressed insight. I wanted to know -- and understand -- the courageous thought and faith processes that led to such vivid life changes. For instance, how did she fall out of love with her husband? And how could it be that within a few pages she is transformed from evangelical soccer mom to MFA student in one of America's best writing programs? The reader is too often led to believe things just happened. But what happened isn't nearly so important as why they happened.
I'm very grateful for this frank discussion, and I appreciate so much the respectful presentation of being caught between two worlds. I simply wish the writer had set drama on the stage of her heart, and had whispered a few more things in my ear.
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