I was raised by an atheist so staunch that I didn’t pick up on the Christian allegory in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books until I re-read them in college. So for me, Aaron Hartzler’s memoir Rapture Practice was—pardon the pun—a revelation*.

I’m not exaggerating, though: Capital-b Belief is something that I have immense respect for, but I’ve never felt like I’ve succeeded in completely wrapping my mind around it. Maybe it’s one of those You Know It If You Feel It things? But this book, despite the vastly different life experience that it depicts—...when I say we believe that Jesus is coming back, I don’t mean metaphorically, like someday in the distant future when the lion lies down with the lamb and there is peace on earth. I mean literally, like glance out the car window and, “Oh, hey, there’s Jesus in the sky.” There will be a trumpet blast, an archangel will shout, and Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds.— has come the closest to helping me understand something that I’ve spent years trying to grasp.

Which is somewhat ironic, since one of the main threads of Hartzler’s narrative is his journey towards understanding that the beliefs to which his family so wholeheartedly, devotedly and genuinely subscribes...aren’t necessarily the same as his. Much of the conflict centers around faith, the form it takes and how we display it, but the harder emotions he grapples with—doubt, anger, confusion and heartbreak—are universal to adolescence, and to coming-of-age. Rapture Practice is about how he finds his way through all that and ultimately makes peace not just with how he’s different from his family, but how they’re different from him.

There’s plenty of humor—the official Kirkus review called it “hilarious,” though I found it more subdued than that—but I had a lump in my throat for almost the entire 400 pages. It’s written with such emotional honesty that it’s impossible not to empathize with Hartzler’s young self: regardless of whether he’s writing about his Big Questions about God and religion or getting caught in a lie about buying the Pretty Woman soundtrack.

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As I read, I was reminded again and again of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Not because Hartzler’s story was remotely similar on the surface—it wasn’t—but because throughout this book, even when he was describing moments of pain and betrayal, I never questioned his love for his family, and for his father in particular.

Loved it, full stop.


*I am so sorry for that. I couldn’t help it. The second I finish writing this, I’ll Google around to see how many other people have made that same joke. So you can rest assured that, soon enough, I’ll be even more embarrassed than I am right now.

If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.