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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Atlas Girl" (Emily T. Wierenga)

TITLE: Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look
AUTHOR: Emily T. Wierenga
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014, (288 pages).

This book is a three-in-one memoir. It is a travelogue that journals the author's travels across several continents. It is a personal memoir that describes the ups and downs; the hurting and healing; the break-up and reconciliation; the joys of pregnancy and sorrows of miscarriage; and the surprising twists of life. It is also a spiritual journal that gives intimate details about the author's faith and doubt; belief and unbelief; despair and hope; personal and impersonal relationships with God. In a nutshell, that is Emily Wierenga, a journalist, a wife, a mother, an artist, blogger, writer, and so much more. Calling herself an "atlas girl" which is also the title of this book, at first the book appears a little bit like Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" that became a bestseller across three continents as well. Although the countries visited are different, Wierenga's story stands unique from the rest.

Each of the forty chapters in the book is summarized with a theme and a country location. Although each chapter is dated, it is not arranged in chronological order. Part of the reason is because the book was started in 2007 when Wierenga started her blog when she returned to Canada to take care of her mum. What is really captivating about this book is the depth of honesty and authenticity the author fills throughout the book. She questions whether her dad actually cared for her. She rebels against her parents' rigid faith. She struggles to make sense of death, disease, and dying. Other setbacks include her eating disorder, miscarriage, and the death of her mum's nanny. At the same time, she shares about the joys of children, the beauty of family, the power of reconciliation, and the reality of hope. Parts of the book contain her mum, Yvonne's writings which made this book a shared work.

Emily Wierenga has shown us that life is not about prim and proper living. In fact, the more we try to make it that way, the more likely we will be disappointed. For life is like a house with many untidy rooms. Each room contains special memories and meaning that changes over time. Some changes are for the better while others seem to get worse. It is not the pretty contours of life that form the highlights of a person. Neither is it the ugly jagged edges that dampen moods. Life is life in all its fullness, the beauty, the warts and all the ordinary. Wierenga writes passionately in a way that shows readers her journey to find healing, to look for her true home, and more importantly, who she is. Readers are invited to walk with her to eavesdrop on her thoughts. Often, various descriptions of her life may resonate with us. For me, it is the way she deals with separation from family across various countries. Her husband in Asia and she in North America. There is a yearning for togetherness. There is a leaning posture on the One who is always near. Above all, there is a learning moment that no science books, no technical manuals, and no do-it-yourself pamphlet can ever do. For life is what Emily Wierenga has described for us in its real and raw form. Be prepared to be moved.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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