Warning: The book reviewed in this post may contain triggers for victims of abusive childhoods and relationships, as well as sufferers of depression, a fear of flying, and weight issues. This book is also heavily and overtly influenced by the Christian belief. Please proceed with caution if any of the above may cause offense or trauma to you.
I want to start this post by mentioning once again that I’m not Christian. I am agnostic with mixed beliefs. As such, I do not share most of the religious views expressed in this book. I am not trying to push Christianity on anyone, nor am I trying to discourage any of my readers from the Christian faith if that is what they believe. However, in my efforts to become a well-rounded person, I am going down yet another new road. Today I’m reviewing A Love Story: How God Pursued and Found Me, An Impossibly True Story by Samantha Ryan Chandler.
As with the sex in Watson’s Blackmail, I recognize that religion is generally not a comfortable topic to discuss. Nevertheless, religion is part of the human experience and we cannot avoid it, perhaps especially in literature.
Readers of all religious backgrounds visit this blog. I expect that everyone will conduct themselves maturely, intellectually, and respectfully in any discussion of this book. Any trolling or bullying of this blog’s contributors or other readers will result in disciplinary action against the offending parties.
That being said, I very rarely read books like this one. Part inspiration, part self-help, and part religious memoir, I have yet to encounter another narrative like it.
In this memoir, Chandler writes about her experiences growing up in a place she calls “Nowhere, Louisiana,” her adult years, and her bumpy path towards God. She details her traumatic childhood, her dynamic relationships with family and friends, and religious exploration which took her all over the world. All the while she conveys her painful life lessons in the hopes that she can help readers find their way.
This book is hopeful and uplifting for Christians and non-Christians alike. It starts rather slowly and, for the first few sections, my attention drifted in and out. The first few sections seem loosely connected. She admits throughout the narrative that she wrote the book for herself–or, rather, God wrote it through her for her benefit–but I still felt, as a writer and a reader, that the information about her childhood and experiences with her family could have been presented in a more reader-friendly manner.
Chandler best caught my attention when she relayed her childhood experiences in Louisiana with her family. The story of her mother tugged at my heartstrings. My heart went out for her mother even as I condemned and was horrified by her violent acts against her husband and daughter. More noteworthy is the narrative voice Chandler assumes during these sections. She becomes a Southern writer with a unique voice, although still reminiscent of other female Southern writers such as Flannery O’Connor. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own Southern relatives.
By the time that Chandler starts discussing her wonderful work with sick children, she has fully captured my attention. She then moves into the true heart of her story: her divorce from her third husband, whom she calls “Darth Vader.” In my opinion, Darth Vader should be offended by that comparison.
Her storytelling had me tangled in the narrative of her divorce until the very end. I wanted to make sure that she got a satisfying ending, and I was not disappointed. The sections added after she had already started the publication process provided much-needed closure for me as a reader, having several loose ends tied.
The most important part of Chandler’s book, however, is the main lesson behind it. Her writing is, as the title implies, aimed at Christians and convincing them to trust in God even in the darkness. Still, I think that non-Christians can find a lesson here as well. If nothing else, Chandler conveys the message that everything happens for a reason. Even our worst nightmares, the darkest part of our lives, happen to make us stronger and mold us into the people we’re meant to be. I think that anyone could benefit from being reminded of that.
I can understand if you don’t want to read this book because of all the Christian references. I had my reservations as well. However, I still think it’s worth reading. In a time when so many “Christians” use scripture to condemn people, Chandler uses it to lift people out of despair. If nothing else, I suggest reading this book to remind yourself that everyone has trials and low points in their lives; the important thing is that we choose to see life through and come out of the turmoil stronger and wiser.
You can read Chandler’s book for free on Kindle Unlimited, or for $3.49 as a regular Kindle user, as well as it being available as a hardcover and paperback on Amazon. Also check out her website for more information on her writings as a Christian author.
Have any suggestions for books I should review? Any that I should read to broaden my horizons? Drop a line in the comments or contact me at email@example.com.