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1.26.2012

Book Review - I Love to Tell the Story by Susan Braun

Sometimes, I receive e-mails from authors requesting a review of their books. The following is my review of I Love to Tell the Story, by Susan Barnett Braun.

I Love the Tell the Story: Growing Up Blessed and Baptist in Small Town Indiana is Susan Barnett Braun’s memoir.  It’s written for an audience who grew up similar to the author in a conservative Christian environment. I’m near the age of Susan Braun, so I could relate to many of her stories. Like her, I grew up in a conservative Christian home. We sung the same songs she quotes at the beginning of every chapter, and her stories of Sunday School brought back memories. It stirred memories of getting a baton for Christmas,  fainting in biology class, playing with Little People, Scholastic book orders, and so much more. In many ways, her story is my story.

From a writing standpoint, the author has a conversational style in her storytelling, and includes dialogue that’s natural. She’s warm and not condescending. As a tough critic, I noticed the author uses a peppering of clich├ęs such as “been around the block” or “go the whole nine yards” throughout the book, but most readers won’t likely notice these, and they aren’t excessive. Each chapter in the book begins with an excerpt of lyrics from a traditional song or hymn, and each is titled from that song.

Readers will likely see that this book has a very narrow audience. Those who didn’t grow up in a Christian environment might read the book to get a perspective on someone who did, but they’ll likely not see some of Braun’s experiences as positive as she does. They will likely not understand. And those who grew up in Christian homes probably won’t stumble over a few creative similes, but those unfamiliar with the Bible won’t understand “she signed us up quicker than Saul lost his vision on the road to Damascus.” Or the phrase, “feeling about as happy as John on the island of Patmos when God gave him the revelation.”

My biggest critique of the book is that it’s missing a real takeaway for the reader. There are a few lines at the end that sum up the author’s thoughts, but they don’t contain something to prompt any response from the reader. I’d like to have seen something here and there about how these experiences made the author who she is today. Or something about the experience that changed or didn’t change her church experience now. In the end, I was left with a feeling of, nice story, sweet girl, but how does this affect the reader?

 In places, I responded with my own reminiscing, but I had mixed feelings about some of what the author might see as positive. In many cases, similar experiences in my upbringing made me think of the church as a place for legalism and artificiality. When I got older, I realized that so much of the legalistic environment of my childhood stifled the gospel rather than spread it. All in all, I think the responses to this book are going to be very subjective, and my response may not be exactly what the author  may have hoped for when she requested that I read and review her book.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book from the author for review purposes.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely and thought-provoking review - thank you, Michelle! I really enjoyed your thoughts. Many of the cliches I put in on purpose, as a way of illustrating the small-town, midwestern way we spoke, but I can see how they may not have come across that way. Likewise, I can see how many of my conclusions may differ pretty drastically from today's readers. The whole church culture has definitely changed in the past 30 years!
    I regret that I won't be at WTP this year. I was able to go last year due to a first-timer's scholarship (greatly appreciated!). I know you will love it. Blessings!

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