It probably does not help any book when the deadline to read it requires putting down the Richard Rohr book you’re currently reading.
I was anticipating the release of Searching for Sunday. I really enjoyed Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood (though I was lukewarm on her debut book). It was funny, insightful, warm, and inspiring. I ended up not reviewing it because I kept waiting for a enough time to give the review the attention it deserved, which, of course, never came. I recommended it to many other people, all of whom enjoyed it.
What I liked about AYoBW was that it was personal experience, enhanced by research. Evans didn’t try to overstep what the book was. She took on an issue that many people grapple with and took some of the guilt out of it.
Searching for Sunday is not that book. Arranged around church sacraments, Evans explores the concept of church and critiques what it is and is not. However, she is really critiquing the evangelical church.
With short chapters Evans shares personal stories, stories of others in the church, some research, and meandering thoughts. The research isn’t documented, which I found disturbing (particularly after her digs at Mark Driscoll). The scattershot approach seems to be trying to emulate the style of Rob Bell, but the writing isn’t of the same quality and the insights are fairly weak.
While arranged around the sacraments I would often have to leaf backwards to check which section I was in. The writing lacked cohesion.
The moments of personal insight were warm and touching, particularly the stories of the failure of her church The Mission, but those are few. Observations such as the willingness of the local episcopal church to welcome Evans and her husband when they came without guilting them when they didn’t were the high point for me.
This book reads like a series of blog posts, which shouldn’t be surprising as Evans is known as a blogger. However, it doesn’t really work as a book. The research is weak and sections come off as bitter at the evangelical church.
Being on my own “search for Sunday”, I had hoped for real insight. I had hoped for reassurance of the importance of the sacraments. I got neither.
I was disappointed and likely would not have completed the book, had I not agreed to review it in exchange for a review copy (which they are likely now regretting). I’ve read other reviews that have a completely different take on the book, and I’m happy for those readers. I think Evans could have done with a stronger editor and more time in writing and re-writing.
When I was done, I went back to the Rohr book and the difference was immediately obvious.
I hope Evans goes back to the drawing board and finds her voice and writes a cohesive book that is less choppy and rushed.