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Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life Paperback – January 20, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Raised by a lapsed Baptist mother and secular Jewish father, Winner feels a drive toward God as powerful as her drives toward books and boys. Twice she has attempted to read her way into religion to Orthodox Judaism her freshman year at Columbia, and then four years later at Cambridge to Anglican Christianity. Twice she has discovered that a religion's actual practitioners may not measure up to its theoretical proponents. (Invariably the boyfriends or their mothers disappoint.) It is easier to say what this book is not than what it is. It is not a conversion memoir: Winner's movement in and out of religious frames, but does not tell, her tale. It is not a defense of either faith (there is something here to offend every reader); and Winner, a doctoral candidate in the history of religion, is in her 20s young for autobiography. Because most chapters, though loosely related to the Christian church year, could stand alone, it resembles a collection of essays; but the ensemble is far too unified to deserve that label. Clearly it is memoir, literary and spiritual, sharing Anne Lamott's self-deprecating intensity and Stephen J. Dubner's passion for authenticity. Though Winner does not often scrutinize her motives, she reveals herself through abundant, concrete and often funny descriptions of her life, inner and outer. Winner's record of her own experience so far is a page-turning debut by a young writer worth watching.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This memoir explores the transition from childhood to adulthood in a voice that is often sophisticated and learned, and occasionally naive and almost gossipy, as the author shares with candor her family ties, friendships, and love affairs. Winner is the daughter of a Reform Jewish father and a Southern Baptist mother, neither of whom talked much about God during her early years. She describes growing up in a liberal synagogue and experimenting with body tattoos, even though "-Jewish law forbids tattoos, plain and simple." As a teen, she questioned everything, and her search became inextricably bound to her social and intellectual life. She writes as one would recall pivotal events in life's journey, and not in a linear fashion. After fervently embracing Orthodox Judaism during college, she was drawn to Christianity, each change following much reading and soul-searching. Mentored by an Anglican priest during her years as a graduate student at Cambridge, she eventually took comfort in becoming a "lifestyle evangelist," which she describes as "-living a good, God-fearing, Gospel-exuding life." Now she is a doctoral student at Columbia. She admits to both a "cherished intellectual snobbery" and to being "faintly embarrassed about the role Jan Karon's Mitford novels played in my conversion." Not a treatise on comparative religion, this is an engaging story of one bright young woman's quest for faith.
Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Shaw Books (January 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877881073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877881070
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lauren F. Winner teaches Christian spirituality Duke Divinity School, in Durham, North Carolina. Her favorite things include October weather, mystery novels, and doodling prayer (see Sybil MacBeth's Praying in Color if you'd like to know more about that last one).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Lauren Winner is not your typical evangelical Christian (if there is such a thing as "typical" anyway). For one thing, the path that brought her to evangelical Christianity passes directly through orthodox Judaism. Therefore, her insights in comparing and contrasting Christianity and Judaism are extremely enlightening. Scholars have debated over the years about whether Christianity is a continuation (or "progression") of Judaism or whether it is a clean break, a radical departure, if you will. Lauren's experience indicates, in a sense, that it's both: to convert to Christianity she had to "divorce" herself from Judaism, yet her Jewish background vigorously informs her Christianity. For this reason, she chose to join the Episcopal church, since it's liturgy seemed to be more on the same wavelength as Jewish ritual. I found this aspect of the book to be the most educational, and hopefully Lauren will someday publish a scholarly evaluation of the Jewish/Christian dichotomy.
The fact that she is a scholar, operating in the heady world of esoteric academia, and swam against the skeptical tide that seems to challenge faith at every turn, is quite admirable, almost remarkable in this day and age. Yet instrumental in her conversion was Jan Karon's unpretentious Mitford series, which helps bring Lauren's testimony within reach of the most humble seeker. (Just because I personally found the Mitford books unremittingly dull doesn't mean I don't appreciate the way the Spirit uses them to bring people to faith).
Another way Lauren breaks the mold is the almost shocking openness with which she puts her life on display. That's not a unique thing among Christian authors (such as Anne Lamott), but it's rare if not unique among self-identified evangelicals.
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Format: Paperback
(3.5 stars)

I found this book to be genuinely captivating, insightful, intelligent, and nicely-written. Ms. Winner is obviously extremely intelligent and well-read, and isn't a shabby writer at all. She's also very honest and emotional about her life and religious experiences, even when it could be argued that some of these details aren't relevant (for example, who really needs to know she wears fishnets and doesn't shave her legs?). My issues with the book lie elsewhere.

As she goes through the calendar year (mostly) according to Christian holidays and seasons in her newfound Episcopal Church, Ms. Winner weaves a nonlinear narrative of her religious upbringing (she was raised in a Southern Reform shul and Jewish by patrilineal descent), her growing level of observance as she became a young woman, her conversion to Orthodox Judaism to (as she saw it) make her Jewish identity legit in the eyes of everyone, her days as an undergrad at Columbia, the pull she felt towards Christianity only a couple of years after becoming officially Orthodox, her transition to the Episcopal faith while in Cambridge, and how she tries to make peace with her religious past and present without disrespecting either one. This story in itself could have been so much better had she chosen to write more about her second conversion. While there was ample material on her Jewish upbringing, her pull towards Orthodoxy, her first conversion, and the Orthodox life she lived in her late teens and early twenties, I was left wondering why exactly she decided to convert to Christianity, and why she chose Anglicanism/Episcopalianism in particular.
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Format: Hardcover
This a spiritual autobiography in which the author, Lauren F. Winner, a very well-read and erudite young woman, has many profoundly revealing things to say about how both Judaism and Christianity can hold special places in the heart and soul of a person who strives to be closer to God. I fully expected "Girl Meets God" to be one of those books that compels me to spend time contemplating words of wisdom between every chapter; instead, I read the whole thing in two sittings. It's that good.
I have to admit that I'm as impressed with the author as I am with her story, which involves converting to Orthodox Judaism and then leaving this for a deep and abiding Christianity. "Girl Meets God" reads like a conversation rather than a sermon. Although she's as clever as she is intelligent, Ms. Winner doesn't talk down to the reader, so you won't have to worry about feeling guilt or shame as a result of religious ambivalence or spiritual shortcomings. Instead of myriad revelations, she's just telling her story, and she's happy to have you listen in.
If you've ever "felt funny" about praying, there's a chapter you can relate to. Don't get as much out of worship services as you expected? She's been there. Surely, there are many far more formidable hurdles in the spiritual path. In the chapter called "Holy Week," a roadblock appears in Ms. Winner's realization that many Jews hated Christ and were responsible for His death. At this point she's a Christian who can have no malice toward Jews. Her reconciliation of her faith(s) comes later in a chapter entitled "Pentecost" which contains some rather profound words about spiritual lessons.
Ms. Winner's journey through Judaism to Christianity will be particularly interesting to those who find both beliefs palatable.
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