One of the interesting things that happens here at NLQ is that I get approached on a regular basis to do book reviews. If the book has anything to do with recovery from fundamentalism or the quiverfull movement and I’m not super pressed for time I’ll do the occasional book review. Sometimes I’ll read the book and decide it really isn’t something that applies to what we are all about at NLQ.
Last week I was asked to write a review for ‘Hypocrisy’ by Leilyn Fields Mac. The only information I could find about the book was a short blurb at Amazon:
What do you get when you take one neglected missionaries’ kid, a child raised in a strict religious household who is a survivor of sexual abuse, and a rebellious teenager…and make them into the pastoral family of a church in a small town in Florida? You get this story that is like a train wreck – it’s so horrible you just can’t look away.
This story is completely fictional…but is it? Or, is it happening all over America every day? And, who will get the happy ending? You may be surprised…
(Note: this book is not for the easily offended)
Sounds interesting? Right? Not exactly quiverfull but very close.
If you’re looking for a book that spells out all the things truly wrong with church culture, Evangelical Christianity and the absolutely awful hypocrisy practiced by many in the church then this is the book for you. It follows a popular pastor and his family along with a handful of others involved in his church in a fictional Florida town. There’s a lot of text book perfect examples on the subject of spiritual abuse and how it happens in large Evangelical churches and in the families connected with those organizations. The author also dances around and hints at Michael Pearl and his child abuse manual – ‘To Train Up A Child’ without actually naming him.
The book is also a good introduction for those that are unfamiliar with the hypocrisy in the modern church that drives others away. It’s also a good reminder of what can be lurking at a church for those of us who have escaped from churches like the one in this book, but it may be too triggering for most. There are also examples of how damaging Michael Pearl’s child discipline can be when used on kids just being kids.
The main character is a pastor named John, the son of missionaries who’s living a double life, treats his family like crap when no one from the church is around. There is just one problem with Pastor John and it also holds true of the other characters, he’s written as a one dimensional person without any redeeming characteristics. He focuses almost exclusively on his penis and how to do things to make Mr. Happy happy. The way the pastor is written does not really translate well to what men are like, bad inner dialogue and written as if this man was only a sex crazed beast instead of a human being with flaws, good points and humanity.
People aren’t all bad or all good, so I feel cheated in the fact that the author chose not to fully flesh out and develop the characters in the book. There wasn’t much in the way of redeeming or likable characters either, even among the ones clearly written to be the ‘good guys.’
The other thing about the book that I did not like was the fact that the author took the unusual step of having most of the book written as email exchanges, text messages, instant messenger messages, Facebook statuses and online blog postings with very little traditional story telling. It made the book very hard to read, a bold choice that makes the book suffer and puts undo strain on the reader jumping around with the formats. The parts with the text messages and instant messages was the worst bit.On the plus side there are a couple of twists I did not anticipate, which I appreciated. The ending of the book is one of those wild twists of plot that leaves the door wide open for a second book. But if the author writes that second book I would hope that she would; develop the characters in a more realistic fashion, use a traditional story telling method even if it’s in a first voice mode and most importantly, hire a professional editor to vet her project so there would be less misused words and misspelled words. Example: the word ‘warf’ was used instead of ‘wharf’ more than once. The errors and format make this a hard read. Plus all of Pastor John’s musing over oral sex was hard to take.
This is one of those self published books that could have been quite good if it had been held back for rewrites and professionally edited.
Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin of NLQ and also the wife of a man who had sense enough to recognize their church as a cult before dragging her out. She is a crazy old cat lady keeps busy with her grown children, her rescue animals, foster care animals and her love of all things art. Contrary to Fundy-Belief she’s usually smiling, laughing or smirking while swilling diet coke and dispensing sarcasm. She blogs at What Would Roger Sterling Do? and True Love Doesn’t Rape