A River Could Be a Tree

An­gela Him­sel

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Fig Tree Books (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $14.99 (288pp), 978-1-941493-24-3

A River Could Be a Tree is An­gela Him­sel’s ac­count of grow­ing up in, and grow­ing out of, the World­wide Church of God—a Sab­bath-ob­ser­vant evan­gel­i­cal sect now mostly as­so­ci­ated with its leader’s scan­dals. Hers is a story of du­al­i­ties: of the ap­peal of be­long­ing to a rigid re­li­gious com­mu­nity, and the feel­ings of iso­la­tion that come with it; of re­ject­ing world­li­ness and be­ing drawn to­ward the world; of steep­ing in no­tions of the end times and find­ing new life in Ortho­dox Ju­daism.

Him­sel’s mem­oir moves through tu­mul­tuous pe­ri­ods in a way that is both thought­ful and con­trolled. The World­wide Church of God of­fered her fam­ily refuge from a rapidly chang­ing world, but it also de­manded that they es­chew mod­ern medicine, un­clean foods, and makeup, and it ex­pected heavy tithing. Be­long­ing guar­an­teed eter­nity, but it was also a hard­ship. Him­sel, though she longed for sal­va­tion, couldn’t squash her cu­rios­ity; by high school grad­u­a­tion, she was ready for some­thing more.

Pro­pelled into col­lege life by a deep in­ner long­ing, Him­sel found her­self in nonevan­gel­i­cal cir­cles al­most in­ci­den­tally. She trav­eled to Is­rael for two years of study abroad, and found some­thing soul­ful in Jerusalem, though it wasn’t deeper faith in Je­sus. Years work­ing in New York City—and dat­ing a Jewish man—read as equally hap­pen­stance.

As an ac­count of evolv­ing past child­hood con­vic­tions, A River Could Be a Tree is sym­pa­thetic and of­ten mov­ing. Him­sel’s au­di­ence will mourn with her, won­der with her, and dis­cover with her. As an ac­count of con­ver­sion to Ju­daism, though, it feels rather in­com­plete. Him­sel’s in­ter­est in the tra­di­tion emerges mid­way, but her ac­tual switch doesn’t hap­pen un­til the end of the book, and it is painted in broad strokes. Even as Him­sel re­lo­cates her­self in a new com­mu­nity, the edicts of her first tra­di­tion, and con­cerns about sal­va­tion, loom. Her mem­oir cap­tures the last­ing and trou­bling im­pacts of ab­so­lutist be­lief sys­tems ably. MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.