Item description for This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost by Carolyn S. Briggs...
A riveting memoir of one woman's immersion into Fundamentalist faith, and her decision, twenty years later, to leave it all behind.
Carolyn Briggs grew up with modest means in the Iowa Heartland. Pregnant at seventeen, married to her musician boyfriend a few months later, by the age of eighteen she found herself living in a trailer with no plans beyond having more babies. Then a friend from high school called to announce that she had asked Jesus into her heart.
That phone call altered the rest of Carolyn Briggs' life. It began innocently enough-a few minutes lingering on the televangalist stations, a cursory look at the Bible-and soon she had wholly given herself over to a radical, apocalyptic New Testament church. She wore modest clothing and kept her head covered, she spent hours in prayer and Bible study, eschewing drinking, meat, and even dancing. Her daily life was permeated with an overwhelming sense of the divine-she braced herself for the Rapture each time she heard trumpet music over the supermarket loudspeaker. After a traumatic second pregnancy, her marriage began to unravel, and it was only then that she dared to question the religious dogma she had embraced for all of her adult life to date.
Beautifully written and powerfully told, this memoir is a fascinating look at the nature of faith, and the inspiring story of one woman's struggle to find her place in the world.
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Studio: Bloomsbury USA
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.56" Width: 5.92" Height: 1.14" Weight: 1.14 lbs.
Release Date Mar 31, 2002
Publisher Bloomsbury USA
ISBN 1582341613 ISBN13 9781582341613
Availability 0 units.
More About Carolyn S. Briggs
Carolyn S. Briggs received her B.A. and MFA at the University of Arkansas. She teaches composition and creative writing in Des Moines, Iowa, where she lives with her husband.
Carolyn S. Briggs currently resides in Des Moines, in the state of Iowa. Carolyn S. Briggs was born in 1955.
Reviews - What do customers think about This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost?
interesting memoir told with little insight Aug 10, 2007
I ordered this book expecting something along the lines of Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase. Knowing that the author would ultimately reject her faith (no secret when you read "A memoir of salvation found and lost" on the cover), I assumed that she would ultimately be forced to acknowledge the gut-wrenching, terrifying, irreconcilable conflict between the faith of her youth and her reason. As someone who belonged to a group similar to the nondenominational and evangelical churches Carolyn describes when I was a teen and young adult, I guess I was just hoping to read the experiences of someone who had gone through what I had when I left. But she didn't.
I suspect that the first chapters were written as exercises in autobiographical short stories, probably shared with her classes (or perhaps the whole thing was just written to impress her tenure committee). There's Carolyn, our young Scout, with her tireless mother and her embarrassing home by the town dump. Then there's the chapter about her sister getting braces, and a reappearance of her mother, now leggy and captivating, like the narrator's mother in A Prayer for Owen Meany. Instead of presenting a rounded characterization of her mother, she simply presents her as one female archetype, then another. This seems to be how Briggs views herself as well. More on that later.
Briggs fills in details that couldn't (and shouldn't) be remembered, especially what was served for dinner the night a conversation or incident took place. Yes, fabricating details makes a story read better, but it makes us doubt the veracity of our author.
I'm certainly not the first reviewer to say it, but I'll join in the chorus that finds her deconversion completely perplexing and self-serving. I could see a person who loses her faith and then loses the only reason for staying in an unhappy marriage, similar to the couples who wait until the kids are out of the house and then separate. But as she tells it, she decided to leave her husband first, and therefore there must be no God. "I could not leave Eric. It would mean leaving God" (271). Well, it would have meant leaving her church, but many self-proclaimed believers leave their marriages, claim that God led them to do it, and then find a new church. The old church probably won't accept their choice, but a new church that doesn't know the original spouses will find it easy to accept them, especially if they imply the fault lay with the ex-spouse.
I feel sorry for the author and the people she portrays in the book. As an ex-Christian, I know how it can be irritating to have your Christian friends judge you, determining that your faith was weak or non-existent in the first place. Perhaps this was an exercise in proving to them how hard she tried, how sincerely she believed. Or perhaps it was to prove to her new world of academic bohemia just how kooky her patriarchal religion had been. Most likely, this was an exercise in reflection that would have been better spent in a therapist's office, not put in print for the world to read how she abandoned her family to "find" herself.
Most sad to me was her obvious heartache over her father's absence for a couple of years in high school and her subsequent oblivious rerun of this scenario with her own child. "Lauren didn't particularly like me. She was fourteen, and I had been in school since she was seven years old. She grew into a daddy's girl while I went to class and studied, stayed late for parties" (286), she says to explain how her absence wouldn't faze her child. I honestly don't believe she recognized that she was doing to her child what had destroyed her at the same age. She allowed her teenager's apparent disdain to justify her absence (my guess is her father had a similar excuse). Again, I'd recommend therapy over writing a memoir any day.
One recurring theme in the memoir is that of the female temptress, the Jezebel. As she tells it, Briggs' conservative community eyed women with suspicion, blaming them for distracting the men with their beauty. As she becomes more and more secular, instead of rejecting that she is little more than a hot body that men can't keep their eyes off of, she just decides to embrace this idea. In fact, the memoir is littered with interactions with men who want her. Perhaps a driving force in her life, no doubt connected to her father's absence, is that of wanting to be wanted by a man. And I believe that had she and her husband somehow kept this dynamic up, she would have remained with him and in her faith. My sad prediction is that her second marriage is no more secure than the first if she doesn't deal with these issues.
I was hoping to read the memoir of a strong woman who realized that she was still a good person, in fact, probably a better person, after she rejected her antiquated and stifling faith. I was hoping she would recognize her cognitive dissonance, and choose her intellectual integrity over her church and beliefs, despite the villification that would be sure to follow. Instead, I felt like I was reading about a teenager who, kept on a tight leash by her parents in high school, indulges in stupid excesses in college.
I loved this book Jul 3, 2006
From the moment I picked it up I could not put this book down. As a woman who has lived a very similar life I felt like I was reading my own story. I love her writing style and as the story goes on I felt her pain as she made choices that were best for her...though hard to go through with. Great book.
Salvation found and lost... Jun 14, 2006
This is the memoir of a woman who was a teenage bride and young mom in the 1970s who discovers fundamentalist Christianity and is extremely active in various churches. She is very honest about what made the world of all-consuming Christianity so compelling and welcoming, especially in its Jesus freak, earth mother 1970s incarnation. But ultimately she found that world stifling and limiting, and had to leave it behind. The earlier part of the story is better developed and examined than her ultimate dissatisfaction and departure, perhaps because she had a longer perspective on that part of it. The ultimate break with her husband and church was glossed over extremely quickly, leaving very little payoff for something that was built up throughout the book. I also wanted to know more about how the about face affected her children, who were raised immersed in that world from birth.
Overall, this was a fascinating read, especially for someone like myself who is an outsider to that world, even if I found the conclusion a bit disappointing. It really shows what the appeal is and how positive and affirming such an all-consuming life of faith can be.
A Sincere and Lucid Personal Narrative Sep 11, 2005
If you're looking for a scathing critique of fundamentalist Chrisitianity, you're not going to find it in Carolyn Briggs' book. Although the emphasis of the book is the author's journey in and out of a blend of calvinistic and charismatic religion, the tale is not a recantation or a refutation of the author's lost brand of Christian belief. The book is, first and foremost, a descriptive tale. It is a book by which a woman reveals her struggles, exposes her weaknesses, gathering poignant and sometimes embarrassing memories artfully into a lucid narrative.
Readers would do well to hold their value judgments in abeyance and simply allow the book to unfold in its reconstruction of Ms. Brigg's personal history. To do otherwise could make it harder for reader to appreciate the skill with which Ms. Brigg's depicts the lively details. The tale is, in the end, just as much about family ties as it is about religious faith. It is about the interaction between the two. Thankfully, Ms. Briggs does not assume a didactic posture which might impede the individual reader in drawing his or her own lessons from the narrative. This virtue also accounts for the book's principal shortcoming: a lack of summation. The book should have devoted a page or two to connecting the dots and helping readers to see how a variety of influences converged to result in Ms. Briggs' loss of her religious convictions. Nonetheless, I recommend this book, especially if you are content to examine the stuff of religious and moral experience through an engaging personal account without insisting that the author provide ultimate theological conclusions.
Disappointing Jan 26, 2004
If I had known how anticlimactically this book would end, I wouldn't have wasted any time on reading it. I was hoping to learn how the author discovered that her religion was based on a false foundation and what effects that discovery had on her. Instead it turns out that she ran out of passion for her hardworking and apparently very decent husband and decided to divorce him, after letting him put her through seven years of school. In order to reconcile this decision with her conscience, she had to dump "God" too. A more feeble reason for giving up a religion that has been the framework of one's life for twenty years can hardly be imagined.
My other sentiments concerning this book have already been ably expressed by other reviewers, and I should perhaps add that I am an atheist.