Thursday, September 12, 2013

Katie Talks Books: Pastrix

Currently reading:
by Nadia Bolz-Weber
I won't lie. I have a deep and innate weakness for books, but I am generally terrible at taking book recommendations. When someone tells me I will definitely like a book, I usually have a hard time picking it up. It ends up being a problem, as most of my weird quirks are, of anxiety; I become so worried that I won't like it and will therefore hurt the feelings of the person who suggested it that I never read the book at all. I come up with a thousand reasons why not, and all those reasons boil down to if I don't like it, that might not be the right choice.

So it's way easier when someone I don't actually know in real life suggests something, because then if I don't like it, no harm no foul! I only know them on the internet! They never have to know!

This book was recommended by Rachel Held Evans, a writer and blogger I like quite a bit. When I looked at the image alongside Rachel's recommendation, I realized that the cover design was all done up like medieval chapel stained glass and old text from books copied by monks. If this reflected her as a person in any way, I could say I would almost definitely love this book.

Then I realized one of her tattoos, in the cover photo, is of the Mary Magdalene.

Well, now I can't not read it. I headed to the library!

... where I discovered they have no plans of purchasing it.

One disappointing email from the library system later, I found myself in a bookstore with a pumpkin spice cafe au lait, a new container of Harney & Sons Pumpkin Spice Tea (what? I'm impulsive. It's part of my charm! also the tea is caffeine free! pumpkin! also impulsive!), and a new book.

Or two.

What? Impulsive.

I'm about halfway through Pastrix, which I suppose is an odd place to be giving any kind of a book review, but I'm really liking Nadia's voice, her message, and everything about her. It's exactly what the cover leads you to believe - cranky and beautiful. She swears like a sailor on Tuesday, comes from a comedy background and so knows how to sell the punchline, and is absolutely coated in tattoos, things you might find surprising in a religious book.

Of course, the inspiration for the title is the thing you might find most surprising; Nadia Bolz-Weber is a female Lutheran pastor.

She's someone I'd love to talk to over coffee in real life, that I'd love to sit down with and just start asking questions about what life experiences do to change us. I'll settle for the book, but still. I'll add her to my ever-growing list of people I'd like to invite to a really chaotic dinner party.

(also on the list are Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Queen Elizabeth, Jim Gaffigan, Freddie Mercury, and a whole bunch of other people. Like I said; really, really chaotic.)

The thing is, I love memoirs. I'm a memoir kinda person. I like all that crawling inside someone else's head that is really at the heart of it, living in some small dim way someone else's story. I love reading how someone else made it from Point A to B, or sometimes skipping B entirely and ending up at Point Q somewhere on the other side of the earth. I don't want to hear my own voice all the time, I love a book written by someone entirely different than me.

A certain type of religious memoir catches my eye all the time, these written by people who are like me, who have been sort of fumbling around in the dark trying to figure it all out: the writer of these books is a woman, invariably, a woman who has a great sense of humor about it all, self-deprecating but a little bit earnest in the end nevertheless. Girl Meets God, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Evolving in Monkeytown, The Book of Mormon Girl... all of those have made their way onto my bookshelf, and there's more like them, too.

I'm glad to add Nadia's book to my already overstuffed collection. She's funny and a little tragic thus far but not self-pitying, and unerringly honest in a way that can be painful to read. Nonetheless, it's hard to stop reading and laughing and worrying along with her.

In short, I seriously recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs as much as I do. I am always up for another glimpse into someone else's mind and hopes and heart and life. Nadia doesn't disappoint, and she doesn't hold back.

Although actually, this whole post reminded me that my mother still has The Book of Mormon Girl she borrowed last year. I need to write a note on my forehead to have her bring it when she and Dad come to visit for Thanksgiving this year.

Or maybe write a note on my hand.

Or... maybe paper. I mean, if I can find any.

Oh, and my apology for no Five Things this week. I usually have most of the post thrown together by Friday morning and finish editing and getting it up there Friday afternoon, but this just... wasn't one of those weeks where I'm going to manage it. Hopefully you're okay with a rambling discourse on a book I'm reading instead.

If not, well...

it's my blog, neener neener. 

Edited to add:

 I wanted to edit, now that I've finished the book, to say that the last two chapters in particular I think are a bit of a punch to the gut, in the best way. I'm taking a couple of days' break to read some light fiction and then going back to re-read Pastrix again with my trust pen ready to underline and make notes in the margins. 

A sign of a book I really loved is if I finish it the first time, wait a couple of days, and then immediately read it again. I really loved this book, and I highly recommend it on a couple of levels; as a memoir, as a Christian inspiration, as an excuse to listen to a woman be badass for a couple hundred pages, as a look at recovery, as a look at forgiveness, as a way to take a deeper look into the mundane and the real, as punchlines and poignancy and exactly the right amount of cussing.

Note: I have started using Amazon affiliate linking, and am considering utilizing other monetization techniques in order to hopefully eventually fund updates to my blog design. What this means for you is - If you click through any of these links and purchase either the book in question or any of a certain other series of items (not everything qualifies, but a lot does and I'm honestly not sure which is which yet), I may or may not receive a small fee in compensation for it. I'm trying to be very forthright and upfront about this. E-mail me if you have any questions or concerns. I will never ever ever ever pretend to like something if I don't.


  1. This is a really fascinating post. I've actually sometimes shied away from recommending books (at least too strongly) out of the exact fear that I'll make a person feel too pressured to like it. Anyway, I've had bouts where I've become really obsessed with personal memoirs as well -- I read the entire Anais Nin A Journal of Love series in one summer. It's so magical when someone's first person journey completely envelops and fascinates you.

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