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Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community Paperback – October 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A woman struggles to find her place in the Christian community in this elegant and witty memoir. Okoro is deeply devoted to God--trouble is, she's never felt comfortable in her worship environment. As a woman of Nigerian heritage who was raised both Catholic and Anglican, her personal faith is never fulfilled by worship. She longs to belong to a loving, empowering church, but as she grows in her faith, she also grows more distant from organized religion. Although the author admits that there is nothing remarkable about her life story, she hopes her spiritual journey--and her strengthened relationship to God--will inspire others to never stop searching for their Christian home. Okoro's memoir echoes the pathos, joy, and humor of Elizabeth Gilbert in this theological quest to find meaning in worship and Christian community. The author's clever and poignant writing keeps readers enthralled at her every triumph and personal trial, and it speaks to anyone who's struggled to reconcile faith and ways of worship.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This is one of those books that you read, and then have to sit back or curl up in a ball and "be still and know." In these honest tear-stained pages are a clear sign that there is a "Hound of Heaven" hunting us down...this Spirit that is stalking us with love, winking at us with miracles, tickling us with grace, subverting everything that could destroy us, and whispering in our ears that we are truly beloved. --Shane Claiborne, author, activist, recovering sinner

If indeed it is the truth that sets us free, this book's honest account of life in and out of the community called church has power to liberate a generation desperate for authentic relationship. Enuma is the real deal. Follow her to freedom. --Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author, speaker, and new monastic

Okoro's story about one woman yearning for holy communion with God and others is jazzy, bitingly funny, wistful, and poignant. It is terrifyingly honest and, above all else, very beautiful... --Phyllis Tickle, General Editor, The Seven Ancient Practices Series

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fresh Air Books; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935205102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935205104
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Enuma Okoro is a Nigerian-American award-winning author and speaker. Born in the USA but raised in four countries on three continents, her interests intersect spirituality, transnational identity and cultural anthropology, women's studies, race relations, and the visual and literary arts. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School where she served as Director for the Center for Theological Writing.
Okoro's spiritual memoir, Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community (Fresh Air Books, 2010) was a winning finalist in the 2010 USA Best Books Award and received the 2011 National Indie Excellent Book Awards Winning Finalist in "Spirituality and African-American Non-Fiction."
She is co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of, Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals,(Zondervan, 2010).
Okoro's poetry is featured in At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete Press, 2011)
Okoro's third book, Silence, was released in fall 2012. Her latest, Talking Taboo was just released in fall 2013.

Visit her website

Enuma's writing and work has been featured in:

abc news Good Morning America online
The Washington Post
The Michael Eric Dyson Show
The Huffington Post
Christianity Today
Burnside Writer's Collective
Weavings: Journal of the Spiritual Life
and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By samuca on October 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
Three cheers for Enuma Okoro and her new book, Reluctant Pilgrim!

Along with my 3 cheers, here are 3 reasons-besides being Enuma's friend-that I get behind this book.

1) All over the pages of Enuma's memoirs, I find the following paradox: only by fixing our imaginations on the weight of God's glory/life with God (2 Cor. 4:17) can we loosen the grip of control on our own lives and lighten up enough to embrace the risk of living for God.

It's the same point that Chesterton made about the saints: what strikes us about them is not that they were joy-killers, but rather that they were enjoy-ers. In other words, the lives of the saints shine before us not because of their gravity, but because of their lightness-"the bearable lightness of being" (to undo Kundera's phrase!).

In RP, this is much more than Enuma just being funny, although she is downright hilarious! And this is more than Enuma being able to write eloquently about the death of her father and the sudden loss of a dear friend without getting crushed under the blow. It has to do with the lesson that she learned about not being the center of universe. It has to do with the way her sense of humor shines through to say: "The only way I know NOT to take my life/pilgrimage too seriously is to take God more seriously."

2) Like Paul in Philippians 3, Enuma's own testimony is about a follower who is "pressing on" by steering clear of the two main obstacles that all pilgrims face: getting lost and giving up. She's definitely not lost AND she shows us what "not giving up" looks like: not settling for anything less than life together with God.

3) RP also a brings to life a third aspect of pilgrimage-the Christian life as a struggle.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Flipflop Fan on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Enuma Okoro has created a painfully honest and beautiful book in Reluctant Pilgrim. In a time when we all regularly hear sensationalized and trivial stories about people who are famous simply for being famous, this book provides exactly the opposite - a deep and honest search for the components of a meaningful life, and a description of the author's own quest to find spiritual community. To take the reader on this journey she gives us just enough background on her nontraditional and multicultural upbringing, weaving in stories from various places the author has called home, which include the UK, the USA and Nigeria. Her descriptive abilities provide amazing glimpses at the cultures and experiences that have shaped her faith and her beliefs, and show where her experiences with organized religion have both failed and sustained her. I enjoyed reading the entire book, but the most gorgeous descriptive passages to me were the raw, emotive segments where the author describes her reaction to loss and death of her father and friend. Yet, this book does not dwell in depression, but instead glorifies the healing power of friendship (particularly female friendship), and the incredible ways that God sneaks into unexpected places in our lives. Both theological and irreverent, Ms Okoro bares her soul for the sake of a true story to be told; it is a journey worth taking.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By reader on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Two words: Soul Food.

I heard Enuma Okoro on NPR speaking of her pilgrimage toward Christianity: a quiet, articulate and humorous Nigerian/American/Citizen of the World with ties and whole lives spanning five other countries at the tender age of 35. And so I had to get Reluctant Pilgrim. I expected a sprightly, intelligent collection of essays on Christianity. What I did not expect was to be brought to tears in the first twenty pages and to find a companion on the journey I call 'life as a spirit in a body.' Okoro writes with grace and zest and she is not just woolgathering; she has a solid background in theology and has been a pilgrim for decades, yet she is not judgmental, pedantic, boring or over pious -- compare her to Anne Lamott or Garrison Keillor, if you like. Most importantly, she has much knowledge, experience belying her youth, and she artfully gets it all down on paper as a cohesive, gently masterful story -- what it is to be full of faith and full of doubt, what it is to seek the face of God and find the unexpected answers, literally, in the ground beneath one's feet. Too many "coincidences" in my own life have lent me to believe in a power that knows and sees all, and it is a benevolent force, an inclusive trinity. I tell you: this book will change you and it will provide not just some answers to the question: What is spiritual community in our times? ... it will offer up some fresh insight into the human condition, which I believe has a ways to go before it can call itself evolved. I felt a companion in this author, and I felt the dual presence of skill and compassion. I ask for nothing more from this much needed genre of literature. Highly recommended. Oh yes. A book to get and to gift to those in these abundantly troubled times. Soul Food.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J.Phillips on January 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you are skeptical of the cottage industry that the spiritual memoir has become (as I tend to be), then Enuma Okoro's Reluctant Pilgrim will go a long way in shattering that pre-conceived notion. Okoro immediately sets herself apart from many others by displaying an incarnate theology - emphasis on both words: "Incarnate" because she deals with the concrete matters of real life - love, loss, doubt, bitterness, anger, grief - in a manner that everyone can recognize as familiar. However, many writers can accomplish similar aims. What distinguishes Enuma's work is her ability to easily introduce theology by way of her own fascinating journey, teaching the novice a thing or two about the Christian tradition, while at the same time reframing those previously mentioned "famliar" matters of concrete life in unfamiliar ways for the theologically-trained. In other words, you may be able to give a wonderful theologically systematic account of what terms like "grace" mean, but understanding grace and resurrection through Enuma's eyes, ears, hands, feet - mind, body, and soul - pulls you into a what becomes a shared journey, a communion of sorts. Lastly, Enuma shares the good, the bad, and ugly. Reluctant Pilgrim is as complex as real life tends to be and thankfully, Enuma doesn't insult us with easy answers or provide a sanitized transcript of her life. As a doctoral student in Theological Ethics, I already have plenty of reading to do, but I blazed through 'Reluctant Pilgrim' in two days and passed on my copy immediately afterwards. Buy this book. Read it, and then give it to someone who needs an honest word of shared struggle and hard-fought peace.
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