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A well-written, honest memoir that takes a multilayered view of revival.

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Gelsinger recounts joining a Pentecostal church as a teenager, marked by both ardor and doubt. 

By the time she was 23, debut author Gelsinger kept a lid on her “fiery Jesus days,” when she “lived for mission trips and miracles, fasting and prophecy.” But it would be years more before she could overcome her fear and guilt over backsliding. Born in tiny Pine Canyon, California, in the 1980s, Gelsinger didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist family. Home-schooled, the author and her brother spent a lot of time exploring outdoors and seldom went to church. Nevertheless, she felt “an inexplicable draw to be near God from a young age” and joined the Pine Canyon Assemblies of God when she was 13. Although Gelsinger enjoyed new friendships, she at first felt anxious and suspicious about the holy frenzy of evening services. Eventually, Gelsinger made her own altar call, speaking in tongues and “soaring with Jesus,” and was asked to join the church’s worship team. Disaster struck when her family’s home burned down. Grieving and angry, Gelsinger got a church intervention for backsliding: “You have a toxic spirit, and everyone can tell.” Her mother told her she was brainwashed, but Gelsinger’s journey away from Pine Canyon and Pentecostalism would take years longer: “I wish I had a dramatic religious escape story, but the truth is my escape involved little choices each day.” Marriage, a master’s degree in journalism, children, and talking about her past all helped; eventually, Gelsinger found a welcoming home in the Episcopal Church. Today, she runs a consultancy for writers. Vivid and engaging, this memoir shows, with honesty and intelligence, the appeal of Pentecostal religiosity to a sensitive and searching teenager—a circle of friends, a sense of purpose, and answers for every question. Gelsinger’s excellent storytelling provides illuminating vignettes on her experience and how it was so often laced with doubt even as she sought certainty. Readers who see fundamentalist religion as a monolith will come away with a much more nuanced view.

A well-written, honest memoir that takes a multilayered view of revival.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-429-5

Page Count: 245

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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