Popular blogger and atheist turned Catholic, Jennifer Fulwiler, relays her conversion story.
I love – I mean really really really love (for real) conversion stories. I was even tempted to purchase this book because I LOVE conversion stories. Also, I read Jennifer’s blog and find her funny and engaging and witty. Sadly, this didn’t translate well into the book.
Let’s start with the good. “Something Other than God” reads like a cross between a novel and a memoir. This, I enjoyed very much. Also, at times Fulwiler’s voice comes through loud and clear and it’s enjoyable. In chapter 22, for example, while she relates a bit about her experiment with the Church’s moral code:
My experiment of living by the Church’s moral code was going amazingly well. An entire week had passed, and I had not murdered anyone or started a single unjust war. (146)
Funny! Endearing! This is the “Something Other than God” that I loved reading. There is quite a bit of this to read, too. Fulwiler shines when she is laughing about herself and it is in these moments she is the mantilla wearing rap fan we have come to know and like on her blog. She also shines when she is telling us the bits of her life that include her husband and her children.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the book doesn’t carry this same style of writing throughout. This is most evident in the first few chapters. Here the writing was often stiff and extraneous: filler. What’s more, some of it I didn’t find quite believable as it read more as an adult’s reflection on childhood experiences than as the actual recounting of these same experiences. Later in the book this same thing happens: the narrator Jennifer reflects on what the character Jennifer is doing. Sometimes this winds up breaking down into a whiny, self-centered narrator who hasn’t quite convinced us that this is not “her” anymore. No doubt this is an editing issue (as is the consistent misplacement – throughout the entire book – of the comma after quotation marks!), but it is an issue.
Ultimately, the story ended well – and not just that Fulwiler converted to Catholicism. The novel “conversion story” had a very sigh-when-I-close-the-book ending which I found to be fulfilling.
Taken as a whole, “Something Other than God” is…a conversion story. I know there have been allusions made between this conversion story and that of C.S. Lewis or St. Augustine (to her credit, I haven’t seen Mrs. Fulwiler claim this). These allusions are illusions. Think of your Catholic friend recounting to you the many and varied ways God reached down from heaven and touched her life. Each instance was an instant. Each moment fleeting until that one glorious Easter Vigil when the Truth culminated into Beauty and everything was made clear. Its a fabulous story, your friend’s conversion. Jennifer Fulwiler’s conversion story is fabulous in that same way. What conversion isn’t?
My final verdict: not quite a beach read.