Walking With Henry: Big Lessons From A Little Donkey On Faith, Friendship, And Finding Your Path, by Rachel Anne Ridge
This was, in retrospect, not the ideal book to read first by the author. This book is, properly speaking, the follow-up to a previous book that the author had written about the first miniature donkey she adopted, named Flash, and it is definitely a step down from that book (review forthcoming). Had I read the other book first, I would have enjoyed it more, as this book demonstrates the author’s general inconsistencies with faith and the fact that she lets her holier-than-thou social gospel thinking overwhelm her better instincts. This sort of book depends on the reader being able to laugh at the author because of her general cluelessness about taking care of animals and living life, and the author fails to live up to her side of the bargain in recognizing that her general air of daffiness prevents her from being the sort of insightful guide that she fancies herself to be. There are still funny moments here, but this book would have been so much better had the author refrained in talking about her milquetoast faith journey and her growing fondness for heathenish liturgy and leftist politics.
This book is about 200 pages long and is divided into thirteen chapters. Each of the chapters of this book contains some sort of Romish rite attached to it that reflects the author’s newfound interest in matters of liturgy. The book also begins with an invitation to follow the author in her errant religious quest as well as a prologue and ends with a guide to prayer walking, as well as the usual acknowledgements, notes, resources, and information about the author and her donkeys. In between, the author discusses her taking care of animals, including a rescue donkey named Henry, as a means of better understanding grace (1) as well as honing her beliefs (2). She discusses the scarcity mentality that donkeys and people can all too easily have (3) as well as the need for our eyes to be open (4). She comments on what we have left undone (5) as well as the fact that each day is a new one (6). She uses pasturing animals as a metaphor for we being sheep in the pasture of God (7), and also discusses how we are led by God and are to lead our animals (8). She muses on infected animals and uses an experience with a rabid mare as an entrance into our own sicknesses (9) and also discusses both the gracious light of God (10) and the way of peace that God leads us in (11). After that there are chapters about the importance of having godly companions (12) as well as giving glory to God (13).
A book like this depends a great deal on tone. It is to be regretted that after making one good book that the author thought that the success of that book meant that she was considered as some sort of spiritual authority, which led her to lose much of the charm that she previously had. This book is disappointing on every level except one, and that is the fact that her lack of skill in taking care of animals is still occasionally amusing and sometimes has serious consequences, as when she lets her lovesick donkey Flash mate with a stray mare that ends up being rabid and has to be put down. That is something that is so sad that it is funny in a dark way, the kind that appears in black comedies about people who have more money than sense and an interest in rescuing animals whose longings and needs far outweigh their modest abilities to cope. Alas, those moments of humor that occur in this book cut against the author’s evident desire to be taken seriously as a spiritual guide, as does the fact that the author finds herself in a process of decreasing zeal to the point where dying mainline churches attract her. If she writes any future books, here’s hoping they keep the humility she had at the beginning and find her abandoning the pretensions of seeing herself as a model for others to follow.