Wel­come to Replica Dodge

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Diverse Voices / Nonfiction - MEG NOLA

Natalie Ruth Joyn­ton Wayne State Univer­sity Press (MARCH) Soft­cover $18.99 (176pp), 978-0-8143-4557-3 AU­TO­BI­OG­RA­PHY & MEM­OIR

Natalie Ruth Joyn­ton’s Wel­come to Replica Dodge is a mem­oir about re­li­gion, place, and cu­ri­ous spir­i­tual and lit­eral jour­neys. Writ­ten with warmth, can­dor, and beau­ti­fully pen­sive lan­guage, Wel­come to Replica Dodge fol­lows Joyn­ton from ur­ban Texas to ru­ral Michi­gan, and from South­ern Bap­tist roots to a pur­pose­ful con­ver­sion to Ju­daism.

Raised in a Chris­tian fam­ily, Joyn­ton found her­self drawn to Ju­daism while in col­lege. Con­ver­sion would re­quire at least a year of fo­cused study and work­ing with a rab­bini­cal spon­sor. Al­though she was ini­tially daunted by the process, par­tic­u­larly when re­call­ing the in­stant “sal­va­tion” of Bap­tist church ser­vices, Joyn­ton com­mit­ted to a re­li­gion she had not been born into but which had be­come part of her soul.

Fol­low­ing her en­gage­ment to a physics pro­fes­sor and Michi­gan na­tive, Joyn­ton found her­self mov­ing from hot, hu­mid Hous­ton to the de­fined sea­sons and brisk win­ters of the Great Lakes re­gion. Now liv­ing in the coun­try­side, Joyn­ton noted that there was not much of a Jew­ish sup­port net­work or even a nearby sy­n­a­gogue. To add to the sense of dis­place­ment, the cou­ple found a un­usual bar­gain for their first home: a farm­house, barn, land, and a “replica” of the Old West’s Dodge City, in­clud­ing a gen­eral store, sa­loon, bar­ber­shop, and jail. The for­mer owner had built it him­self in re­mark­able de­tail and to scale.

From the hushed mys­ti­cism of Hous­ton’s Rothko Chapel to a glimpse of a fox amid cherry trees, and from the soli­tary bak­ing of chal­lah to mem­o­ries of Christ­mas gath­er­ings over grits and sticky buns, Wel­come to Replica Dodge is rich with quiet mo­ments, fam­ily his­to­ries, and re­flec­tions on faith, love, and be­long­ing. Cy­cles of na­ture align with el­e­ments of Jew­ish and Chris­tian tra­di­tions in a mem­oir that is not so much about the set­tled past but rather a pro­logue to a well-earned fu­ture.

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