This Is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open The Door To Intimacy And Connection, by Sammy Rhodes
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]
This book is awkward, no joke. I do not know how popular this book will be, but nearly every chapter of this book is full of awkward personal honesty to the point of oversharing. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one views the travails of insecure and painfully open and honest writers with incredibly uncomfortable personal backgrounds, I happen to clearly be part of the target audience for this book. This book was written for someone almost exactly like me, and much of it could have been written by someone like me, although it would have been written differently because I would have written it according to my own style and with my experiences instead of the author’s, but there would have been a large amount of overlap . In a way, that makes it uncomfortable to review this book, because to talk about the book is in many ways, and painfully awkward ways, to talk about myself . Nevertheless, this discomfort appears to be the goal of the book, to provoke the sort of discomfort that leads to genuine repentance and the building of a relationship of honesty and integrity with God and others.
The contents of this book fit squarely within the body of books written to encourage those who deal with the brokenness of life . There are a lot of those books, because this world is full of brokenness, and because many broken people are compelled to express the brokenness they struggle with. The chapters of this book, around fifteen or twenty pages apiece, deal with issues such as dysfunctional childhoods, divorced parents, addictions to lust, depression, disastrous experiences in dating and courtship, friendship, personality theory and the difficulties of communication, eating as self-medication, the hazards of social media, the tension between fear and longing in our relationships with Jesus Christ. After these chapters, the author provides two very short appendices about surviving a party as an introvert and a sensible manifesto for responsible social media use. The author is generous with his acknowledgements, thanking both of his parents as well as his wife, who has stuck with him despite the ups and downs of a very challenging life, which cannot be easy to deal with.
This is a book that is hard to render a verdict on, because the author fills the pages of this book with his life, with his memories of his parents’ phenomenally ugly divorce involving drinking and drug addiction and adultery, with his own experiences of sexual abuse as a young person, and with the disastrous effects of his life’s trauma on his mental state, including a huge amount of anxiety and depression that fill nearly every page of this work. The author includes diary entries where he records his awkward conversations about crying in public because of what a friend says as well as his uncomfortable interactions with Starbucks’ baristas, and the unhealthy use of food and thoughts about sex as ways to medicate his deeply wounded soul. My own feelings upon having read this book are deeply complicated—a sense of deep compassion and empathy for the author in that he is a man not so different from myself, neither in his experiences, in the damage and wounds he suffered from them, nor in the way he deals with his burden by pouring it out through writing. Added to this is a feeling of deep discomfort that there was so much I could relate to as well, and a sense of the embarrassment and shame in so much of what was written about, in the way that many people do not want to talk about it, and want to pretend that such horrors and difficulties do not exist. Added to this is also a deep and fierce longing for the justice of God, and also for Him to bind up the wounds of the broken of this world and to create a new heavens and new earth where the former things of this life will not even be remembered, nor mourned, as they so often are in our lives. Added to this as well is a sense of some dissatisfaction that the author spends so much time dealing with, even wallowing in, the brokenness of life and not a lot of time painting a vision of wholeness that we can hope to reach someday, by the grace of our loving Father, and elder brother, Jesus Christ. It is a difficult thing to ask such a small book, not even 200 pages including its appendices, to carry the weight of such complicated feelings.
 See, for example, my discussion of the awkwardness of life:
 See, for example, the following quotes:
“Again, that’s what awkwardness is, the gap between what we should be and what we actually are. Life is awkward because it doesn’t go the way it should go. People are awkward because they don’t do and say and think what they should do and say and think. All of us are awkward because all of us experience this gap in some way (4).”
“What a devastating realization it is that your parents are people—people who carry wounds and who create wounds too. Wounded people wound people, whether they stay or leave. One of the keys to the wholeness we all long for is embracing the awkwardness of loving and forgiving our parents, wounds and all (16).”
“The only thing that can mend the hearts of those of us coming from broken homes is a love deeper than romance that melts our cynicism. A love that is subversive in its power. A love that stares into the abyss of our souls and says with compassionate conviction, “I’m not going anywhere.” A love that knows us at our worst yet moves toward us still (44).”
“That is how life goes—we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness into themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s.” – Marilynne Robinson (172)
“The good news is that the Lord loves awkward people, for there isn’t any other kind (182).”
 See, for example: