I have said it before. But one of the things I most love about blogging is that I have grown to ‘know’ so many authors. It is a distant knowing. I have yet to meet any of them in person. But Matt Anderson, John Dyer, Rhett Smith, Tyler Braun, Karen Swallow Prior and Carolyn Weber (and others) I have interacted with beyond their books. It is not merely using one another for page views and book sales. With social media and some longer conversations, I feel like I can actually enter into their lives, at least in a small part.
Carolyn had a baby boy this past year and we exchange the occasional pleasantries. Carolyn has on several occasions thanked me for a blog post or review, and there are very few things that make my day more than an author I love (especially Carolyn) making appreciative comments on my writing. The internet is such an odd world.
So on this second reading of Surprised by Oxford, I am not coming to the book fresh. The first time I picked it up because of good reviews and a free review copy. The second time I had more invested I had purchased a couple of copies for friends. Some had liked it and some had not. I now knew what was going to happen. These were people that I had some understanding about, both the characters from the memoir and the real people that inhabit the current world because these are people that I potentially could meet.
In my last reading, I was most struck by the beauty of the words. Carolyn Weber writes beautiful, evocative prose. That is no less true this time. But most of what struck me was the story. It was not new, but for some reason, I wanted to savor the poems that the characters were sharing. (And I am not a poetry guy, the fact that I found myself re-reading poems should speak very highly of this book.) I was more invested in Caro and TDH (Tall, Dark, and Handsome)’s occasional romance.
Even more, I fell in love with Carolyn’s progressive love story with God. It is not just that this is a story of finding God. This is a story of finding God when the odds are stacked against you. She was an academic, inoculated against religion by a family that believed that being a good person was being a Christian. She had a father that was distant and moody and the opposite in so many ways from her heavenly Father.
That is part of what makes her relationship with TDH so important. He attempted to show her that she was lovable for herself, and regardless, he could have good intentions for treating her well. This is a book, more than last time, that gives me hope. Especially for the single women that I know that are attempting to find God.
Stories of finding God should never go out of style. When there are stories as beautifully written and narrated as this, we as readers have an obligation to keep them in print. And to share them so that others can find them. What can be more beautiful than a story of a woman finding true love with her maker and a husband rolled together in one?