Book Review: Start With Amen

Start With Amen:  How I Learned To Surrender By Keeping The End In Mind, by Beth Buckenberger

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

It is not always easy to know where to start with a book like this.  There is a lot to like about this book–the author is certainly very candid about her own struggles, her own strong sense of idealism and her concern for others.  This particular book strikes a confessional tone that forgives many sins and certainly helps make this book a good deal less irritating than many of the social gospel books like it [1].  That does not mean the book’s tone forgives all of the book’s sins.  This book has more than a few flaws that I still found rather irritating as I read it, namely the fact that the author felt it necessarily to continually namedrop the founders of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade) and to continually repeat the same phrases over again, especially using “Amen” as a rather nuanced and complicated noun, in the sense of someone who believes they have found a salable catchphrase that they are simply not going to let go of.

The author looks at the concept of letting things be so in various contexts, starting from the posture of acceptance, the benefits of proximity to God, how fallow ground needs to be broken up to be usable, what it is like sleeping with the frogs rather than praying to God for the frogs to be removed, the task of climbing the mountain of faith, dealing with the sin that crouches at our door, burning our ships–the opposite of amen, the confidence we get through the generosity of the king, the lifestyle of generosity, the boldness and chutzpah we gain through living a godly life, the rebuilding of the walls and ruins that results from godly faith, and the community of faith.  Throughout the 200-page book the author spends a great deal of time talking about her travels, her missionary work in Mexico, her tendency to get hopelessly lost, the orphans and adoptees and foster care children her family took care of, and her foibles.  This is one of those books where the level of awkward oversharing is pretty intense, so those readers who find such an attitude difficult to deal with would be advised to steer clear of this book.

Ultimately, my feelings about this book are mixed.  The author certainly has noble intentions, but intentions don’t really count for much with me if the results are not good enough.  It was not the author’s opinions as much as the author’s approach that ultimately alienated me from a book that wanted more than anything to be intimate.  This is by no means a bad book, but it is at least somewhat of an annoying book, and like most readers I am not the sort of person who likes people to annoy me with their writing.  There is enough that is irritating and frustrating about life for books to be acceptable in this vein.  This is a book that could have been vastly better, and perhaps all that remains is to recommend to the author that she needs to consider her audience and make it clear if she wants to write to guilt-ridden Evangelical women or if she would appreciate a larger audience that has to be addressed differently.  It is possible, after all, as is often the case, that I simply read a book that was not written with me in mind as a reader, with the predictable consequences that ensue from that lack of focus and interest.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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