Personal essays rooted in religion with a Midwestern ethos.
In the preface to her first book, a collection of 15 mostly previously published pieces, O’Gieblyn characterizes the contents as primarily dealing with “questions about history and historical narratives” and her “abiding interest in loss.” The main loss is her own religion, evangelical Protestantism, which is the prism through which she smartly probes a variety of timely topics. “Although I no longer espouse this faith,” writes the author, “it’s hard to deny the mark it left on me.” In the longest and one of the best pieces, O’Gieblyn takes on the concept of hell. She recalls watching an instructional video in school about four kids killed in a car crash who end up in cages: “I was always too shell-shocked to find it redemptive.” She then recounts her time at the ultra-conservative Moody Bible Institute. Her stay there contributed mightily to her religious change of heart. However, she still finds herself “lurking” around the religion section of bookstores “like a porn addict sneaking a glance at a Victoria Secret’s catalog.” In a piece on John Updike, she confesses to having avoided his misogynistic-tinged fiction. The author was in a forgiving mood after reading his “great” novel Couples, which documents “one man’s fears about the limits of his own dominion—his dawning premonition that paradise is tenuous, and his to lose.” The sprightly “A Species of Origins” recounts a visit to Northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum, the “backwater fringe of creationism,” and its Ark Encounter, where visitors encounter “robotic beasts.” It posits a worldview, she writes, “that precludes the very possibility of inconvenient truths.” Other topics include Alcoholics Anonymous, the myth of motherhood, Henry Ford’s “vanity project,” Greenfield Village, and Mike Pence, a “curious kind of Christian politician.”
O’Gieblyn’s contemporary, hip voice is one people need to hear.