Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reinventing Rachel

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was...interesting. I think that's the correct word. I had several great meals and saw plenty of family that I love to spend time with. There were some other interesting events in the last four days, but I know that God is with me all the way. On the way out to my father's on Friday, we were surprised to see the most amazing sunset. The sky was a deep reddish orange, and there was a distinct beam of light from the center going straight up into the clouds. It was a once in a lifetime experience of beauty, and it has held me up over the course of the last twenty-four hours. I am so grateful that my God loves me, loves those I struggle with, and carries us both through until we can work through our hurt and come together again. In the midst of the pain, I have much to be thankful for.

Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel is a thoughtful look at the fall of a staunch Christian re-evaluate her life and decide to run away from it all, including the Lord. Rachel Westing is one of those church members that if the doors are open, she's there. From her ministry with teenage girls, to her job at the local coffee shop, she's always looking for a way to evangelize those around her. When she discovers in rapid succession that her parents are divorcing, her father is bipolar, her mentor is going into rehab for prescription drug addiction, and her fiance has been cheating on her with her roommate, Rachel has had enough of California and the pain and moves in with her childhood friend Daphne in Chicago. Daphne has always lived life on her own terms, living for the moment and resisting Rachel's best attempts to save her soul. Rachel feels betrayed that God failed to fix her problems despite all of the work she'd done for him, so when she leaves California, she tries to leave God as well. Daphne's life of no strings attached and fun all the time is seductive to Rachel at first, but when Daphne starts acting strangely and the utilities are turned off for lack of payment, she begins to turn to alcohol to block out the fear and depression she's felt since leaving home. Strobel excels at writing sympathetic characters, even when they are doing unreasonable things, and she carefully keeps that tension alive here. Readers will like Rachel, even when she starts making terrible decisions and through her selfishness.SPOILERS: Strobel keeps her from becoming a victim, nor does she ever become shrill or unlikable. For Christians, the book will serve as a clarion call to ensure that the God we are worshiping is the true one, not a vengeful eye in the sky, nor does He require a checklist of duties to be done each day and in return He will keep us completely safe. Strobel has a firm grasp of who God really is, and she imparts that to readers without becoming too preachy or pedantic. Rachel's spiral into addiction and despair is often hard to read, but Strobel keeps the story interesting and the plot suspenseful. Strobel is an author to watch in the future, as she seems to be getting better and better.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review.