Book Review: Jesus Freaks by Andrea Randall
For most of my adult life, I’ve been prejudiced against conservative Christians and fundamentalists of all kinds. At least outside of fiction. I loved reading about Prior Phillip in Pillars of the Earth, but it never even crossed my mind to read any contemporary Christian literature, with the exception of the Left Behind series, which I thought was okay writing but hideously awful theology. The thing I disliked the most about that series (and a few others which I’ve read) is that they were transparently pushing a specific religious agenda. As I’ve written before, I’ve spent much of my adult life on the outs with God, so I really didn’t want to hear it.
This book isn’t that.
First, my disclosure. I fell in love with Andrea Randall’s writing first, then with her heart and soul. Now I live with her and we’re building a family together. So I’m biased. But that doesn’t make my review untrue. I just wanted to make sure it’s out there.
Now, for the book.
Now, let me tell you about Kennedy Sawyer. She’s really smart. Graduated at the top of her class, and had her pick of Ivy League colleges to attend. Which was why her friends and her mother were gobsmacked to discover that instead of Cornell or Yale, she was heading off to conservative Christian Carter University, or, as Kennedy irreverently refers to it, Jesusville.
In fact, I’ve only made it on Facebook once this week. Once. I logged on in the library on campus, but kept my message of I’m alive, no worries, just settling into my new environment short and sweet. I’m sure you can imagine the responses that status garnered.
Have they burned you at the stake?
Pray for me, from a guy friend whose profile picture showcased him flanked by two girls with Greek letters across their chests.
That I get laid soon! He completed his thought in another reply.
Am I allowed to visit, or will the pearly gates be closed?
Kennedy’s friends are surprised, but no more so than her mother, who doesn’t support Kennedy’s decision at all. We’re treated with this exchange in the first chapter:
“Makes it easier for them to spoon feed you Jesus,” Mom had sarcastically remarked earlier in the summer. “Cram him down your throat” is what she’d actually said, but I talked her down.
But there is more to the story than her friends know. In fact, Kennedy’s birth father is Roland Abbot, the celebrity televangelist who also happens to be the pastor of the fundamentalist church linked to the campus.
Kennedy made the decision to go to Carter to explore her relationship with her father—and with herself.
Stopping with my hand on the doorknob, I turn to Roland. “I’ve lost my appetite. You preached for an hour about sin and regret. You gave the freshman class one hell of a cautionary tale, Roland. Pardon me if I don’t want to be the dog in your dog and pony show designed to keep everyone
pure. No one knows we’re related, and no one will. Got it? I’m having a hard enough time fitting in without throwing you into the mix.”
Enough with the quotes. This was a heck of a good book. It’s worth reading, and it doesn’t require you to be any kind of religion to enjoy the story of a woman coming of age in an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile environment. It will, however, make you think, about politics, faith and the sometimes uncomfortable crossroads between them.
Here are the links to go get the book:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1ruyOKf
Google Play: http://on.fb.me/1qg1y6G