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Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything Hardcover – April 8, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145550176X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455501762
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ehrenreich has always been an intellectual and a journalistic badass... [She] ultimately arrives at a truce with the idea of God. You'll admire her journey."
Entertainment Weekly

"[Ehrenreich] resolutely avoids rhetoric in that 'blubbery vein'--which is why her book is such a rare feat...She struggles to make sense of the epiphany without recourse to the 'verbal hand-wavings about mystery and transcendence' that go with the territory... Ehrenreich has no interest in conversion...She wants, and inspires, open minds."
The Atlantic

"The factor that makes each of [Barbara's] books so completely unique in American intellectual life is her persistent sensitivity to matters of social class. She can always see through the smokescreen, the cloud of fibs we generate to make ourselves feel better about a world where the work of the many subsidizes the opulent lifestyles of the few. That, plus the fact that she writes damned well. Better than almost anyone out there, in fact."—Salon

"As personal a piece of writing as she has ever done... A surprising turn for Ehrenreich, who for more than 40 years has been one of our most accomplished and outspoken advocacy journalists and activists."—The Los Angeles Times

"Until reading LIVING WITH A WILD GOD I counted the Mary Karr memoir trilogy as my favorite from a contemporary literary figure. Now, Ehrenreich's memoir is tied for first place with Karr's books... Thank goodness [this book] exists. It is quite likely to rock the minds of readers who dare open to the first page."—Houston Chronicle

"A smart and enjoyable read... Ehrenreich maintains a grip on a sensible skepticism about religious matters - and a positive hostility toward the idea of unthinking faith - while avoiding the narrow-minded excesses that more zealous atheists sometimes fall victim to."—The Chicago Tribune

About the Author

BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of fourteen books, including the bestselling Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. She lives in Virginia.

More About the Author

BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of fourteen books, including the bestselling Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. She lives in Virginia, USA.

Customer Reviews

The writing style of this book was very annoying to me.
Trina C
In the end, appears she believes in some "Other" superior power but will not call it God.
Esther Anderson
She is a good writer in every book I have read of hers and this one is also excellent!
Beth Williamson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Mary K. Breazeale on April 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Barbara Ehrenreich is an author whose books were important influences on my generation of feminist/socialists. Hearts of Men and Nickle and Dimed are classics. So when I saw that, now in her 70s, she’s produced a book on spirituality I was eager to read it.

Living with a Wild God focuses on a set of dissociative moments experienced by Ehrenreich during her childhood and teen years. Uncanny insights into the nature of being? Encounters with the divine? Brain freeze explosions? An atheist, Ehrenreich refuses to give a conventional religious interpretation to what happened. In fact she doesn’t want to corrupt the purity of experience by interpreting or defining these moments at all. Okay, but then why write a book that keeps circling back to these incidents only to back away from explaining why they feel so crucial to her life story?

What results from all this is a weirdly unsatisfying memoir. We get the story of a brainly misfit growing up in a dysfunctional household headed by an alcoholic father and miserably unhappy, abusive mother. Ehrenreich’s enjoyably snarky voice, which works so well in most of her writing, falls flat here. Other than a nicely mean account of her adolesence in LA (like the Kerouac of Big Sur, she hates the California sun) the author skates along the surface of her life story, meting out a kind of impersonal contempt to everyone including her solipsistic youthful self. High school, college, grad school, marriage, motherhood, the anti-war movement… blah, blah.

I was now, according to my kindle, 80% of the way through the book. Suddenly, bam! A whole new kind of writing starts happening. In a deeply personal tone, Ehrenreich tells us why she wrote Living with a Wild God.
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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Barbara Ehrenreich, whose "Nickel and Dimed" is one of the best books I've read in the last fifteen years or so, is in her early seventies now (as I almost am myself), and it's quite wonderful to see her turn her unsentimental, humane eye on her own earlier life, and in particular, on some strange and intense "dissociative" experiences that she had as a teenager and, to some extent, still has today. These experiences she has come to present as encounters with something "other," and like the empirical scientist she used to try to be, her book is really an appeal to keep open the possibility that that "other" is something that we shouldn't rush to categorize in the language of religion, or psychiatry, or neuroscience. I have to say that nothing in "Nickel and Dimed" prepared me for this, but readers who are familiar with writers like Barry Lopez or Peter Matthiessen might think that Ehrenreich is exploring some territory that they too are interested in.

The book has two focuses of interest: first, her experience itself, which includes vivid accounts not only of what we might call uncanny moments but also of a very difficult childhood with two unhappy and finally alcoholic and suicidal parents. Ehrenreich writes about her parents with a detachment that is well short of clinical, but it's a detachment we can well understand as being the product of strategies that she, an unusually self-conscious, articulate child, devised to survive her relationship with these parents. She doesn't over-analyze, however: she contextualizes, and her adolescent encounters with uncanniness, along with her solipsism and precocious reading are set forth without any tightly connecting web of causes and effects being drawn between them.
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92 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Rev. Brad Karelius on April 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a teacher of world religions, I have many students who either did not grow up within a spiritual tradition or had bad experiences with religion. Barbara reminds us that half of Americans reveal that they have had some kind of mystical experience. As a parish priest and college professor, I value Barbara's contribution in this book for my students. She is honest about her upbringing in an atheist, anti-religion family and her education and passion for science. But she finds the Cartesian rationality limited, especially when she tries to make sense of a powerful, mystical experience she had in Lone Pine, California fifty years ago (which is my own spiritual homeland). She gives voice and description to help others who have experienced a Presence/theOther/The Holy without requiring the vocabulary and theology of traditional religion.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By joymars on April 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As one who has had a life of "non-ordinary" experiences, I looked forward to the publication of this book. BE needed to include the relevant information about her life/psychological state as it pertained to her powerful experience, but the weight of these chapters in the book makes it veer into ordinary memoir territory. My guess is BE, an admirable writer, has entered the age when her entire life needs to have meaning -- and so she writes a book to spend time with her precocious young self.

Granted, her family's atheism is an important context for what she felt/saw/understood in her powerful non-ordinary experience. But the reader could have sized up her family circumstances in less pages. My eyes glazed over throughout the chapters on her laboratory work. I think there were more personal after-effects to be told regarding her epiphany than what she presents here, but BE felt the need to display her science bona fides instead.

Toward the end of the book BE finally gets down to musing about what she had seen and felt. She does so from the position of a carefully-guarded scientist/intellectual. She admits that she has spent little time in her life immersing herself in non-Freudian, non-clinical psychology, and that she has no intention of doing so in the future. As a writer known for her research, this is odd. Why does she drop her signature journalism for this book? She seems to understand the synchronous role of the friend who spearheaded her experience. He is a typical twin element that partners non-ordinary experiences. He was secretly searching for dangerous explosives. His intent paralleled her own searching behavior at that time in her life, and what he was after brilliantly mirrors the content of her non-ordinary experience.
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