Customer Reviews: Stumbling toward Faith (Emergent Ys, No. 19)
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on September 4, 2004
i have avoided writing this review because i would hate to say anything that would keep someone from reading this important book.

the level of abuse and trauma that renee endured at the hands of her father and the church is sickening, and yet she writes with beauty and depth. there are times you wish she'd stop, you can't fathom anyone enduring the horror she did, but you feel a bit braver for having heard her story, shared her journey.

never have i read anyone with the courage and stamina to endure what she has endured. yet her pain is laced with glimpses of hope, beautiful prose and inspiring tender moments of care. it's unlike anything you have ever read.

if you work with children/teens, or in a church or know someone who has been abused this is a MUST READ. never again should this be allowed to happen. renee's abuse had the church's stamp of approval, it must stop, we must hear the child, we must punish the abuser and allow the hurt to grieve at their own pace.

amazingly this is a story of hope, a story of grace and a story of courage. you won't be the same after you read it.
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on August 23, 2004
This book is a `must read' for all, but particularly for teachers and youth leaders. It is the story of a young girl who endured horrific abuse from those in whom God entrusted her care. Yet it is so much more than that for it is a story of hope and life and love arising out of the chaotic ruins of a childhood gone terribly wrong. It is a hauntingly beautiful narrative told in bits and pieces of both prose and poetry that invites more questions than answers. While she will never be able to recover completely, Renee Altson has allowed herself to be loved, to claim a new life, and to open her heart to search for the God she desperately wants to know. She has found her voice and she delivers a powerful message that cannot be ignored. This is an inspiring and thought provoking book that will leave the reader hungering for more from this exceptionally gifted writer.
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on March 9, 2005
Renee Altson's book is marvelous! Pastors, youth workers, lay leaders, and counselors NEED to read this book to understand the trauma of sexual abuse, the pitfalls of fundamentalism, and how God can use all things for His glory. The book has an artistic format, which also features Renee's wonderful poems, as well as glimpses of her life. It is poignant, painful, and well worth your time, thoughts, and contemplation.
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on November 14, 2005
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the depths of abuse that some children suffer, and the courage and strength of those who survive.

I intended to read this book slowly, because of the intense material. I kept thinking, "Okay, it's time to stop," and getting pulled in one more page and three more pages. I really like the poetry - it's surprising and concrete and deeply true all at once. I like the lines that stand out in larger type. I like that it starts out with a clear statement of abuse - no veiled hints, no way to pretend it wasn't happening.

I felt very engaged, the whole time I was reading. I didn't really expect that, since I'm not Christian and never have been. I've had that same struggle, though, believing I'm bad and worthless and wondering why "God" didn't save me. I had a solid sense of the narrator in the book, and felt like I was in conversation, and kept wanting to say, "What about...?" and "Here's how I..." and "Yeah! Me too!"
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on March 8, 2005
Renee Alston has poured out her soul to the world in this provocative life story. She takes the reader on a journey through hidden closets and heavy breathing. All the while searching for justice and shalom, she has learned to wrestle with God in the midnight hour. Although the light of day has come, she is left walking with a limp.

I recommend this book to anyone who dares to read it! I pray it will help to unleash a new sensitivity within the church, and promote honest confessions of doubt and faith.
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on April 26, 2014
I heard of this book from the introduction to Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. If you've read that intro, then you know why I ran to buy this book (the excerpt he chose is pretty startling). I wasn't sure why I wanted to read it, but I now realize God wanted and has used this book to help me in my journey of healing from my past.

I cannot stress enough how vulnerable this book is. When you hear someone's story, it is an act of faith & courage. And that faith & courage then, allows us to face and look at our own stories and be honest with ourselves and others.

This book felt like I was sitting in a chair listening to a beautiful human being sharing her story with me. I cried -literally all the time... Like, weeping; both at the horror she endured and also as a kind of realization that it was ok for me to cry and deal with my junk.

This is a deeply personal book and I cannot recommend it enough. Thank you, Renée for sharing it with us.
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on October 31, 2014
This is a great read. The author writes a person is searching for God despite all her hurts and pains suffered by the hands of those who say they are a follower of God. The struggled with the mind. The things Christians don't talk about.
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on November 4, 2011
This nonfiction, true account is quite graphic. I read of a woman's struggle to resolve physical and verbal (emotional/mental) abuse delivered in God's name. She's trying to live to be good enough for everyone around her, better than her poisoned past and perfect for a exacting god. She covers the search for acceptance that many of us feel and hope we will find in the name of a god and its people. The real sense of an individual comes through in an almost diarist format. Many of the revelations the author reaches, though she's still searching, resonate with me.
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on June 3, 2010
I am not a very spiritual person, but I found enlightenment and connection with this book. I think anyone who picks up this book will find some kind of link to it at one point or another because we have all felt lost or forgotten in our lives. Renée is just strong enough to share those hard times with the world, hoping that somewhere her words will touch someone. Renée Altson puts her whole tormented life out in the open in the first couple of pages of her book, "Stumbling toward Faith". She begins by saying, "I grew up in an abusive household." (Altson 13) which is one of the lightest ways that she could describe her upbringing. At the beginning of her book, Renée describes how she has been left by her mother at a very young age and raped by her father for the majority of her adolescent life. The most incomprehensible part of him raping her is that he tells her he is doing it in the name of God; he tells Renée that God is punishing her for being bad. From that point of her book on, she intriguingly lays out her story for me to experience. I think Renée does a good job of telling her story and anyone who would pick this book up would gain something from reading it. I would recommend this book for someone that feels lost in life because even if their confusion does not have to do with God, they can still learn something from Renée.
Renée goes back and forth between her adolescent years and her college years, to when she finally reaches present day. I think she is an interesting story teller; the way that she depicts the hostel environment that she grows up in, whether it is in her house with her father or in her Catholic church that she never really fits into, makes me feel like I am there experiencing everything with her. She questions God; she asks Him what she has to do to make Him love her, make Him feel like she is worthy of His love. She never feels like He answers her, that she was not good enough for His love. Renée then decides to travel to New York to find her mother, which leads the reader on a completely different journey.
The way that Renée transitions between time periods of her life is magnificent, but there was something that I found aggravating about Renée's writing. That was the dramatic emphasis that she put on everything that happened in her life. Now, yes I understand getting raped by her father and left by her mother is traumatizing, but there were certain places in her book that did not need to be so overly emphasized. Like the time she talks about when she feels bad that she is not attending church anymore and then she starts to think about how people in her life are constantly telling her that her family problems are caused by the family not attending church. Then, she feels an enormous amount of emotion; that emotion was guilt. I feel like she pushes a little bit too far; her pushing makes me feel like she is sometimes just looking for sympathy.
Through the majority of her adult life Renée has been seeing a therapist, who helps her get through all of her issues. The book opens with Renée talking with her therapist; Renée asks him a very personal favor. Renée was born with a different name, which the reader never discovers, that apparently does not fit her personality or the person that she wants to become. So, she asks her therapist to rename her; she asks him to pick out a name that fits her, her life, her spiritual journey, and her survival. He spends many hours looking through baby name books in the children's section of the library until he finds the perfect name for her. He chooses Renée for her. He thinks this perfectly describes her because of the meaning behind the name, it means "reborn."
Something that Renée includes in her book that I have not seen many authors do is that she incorporates poetry and verses from the Bible. She includes this poem:
there are many layers to my story,
to all of these words,
this lostness.

i tell as much as i can,
with the words that i have,
and still i feel the fracture of the partial,
still i feel the emptiness of the untold.
(Altson 30)
She does a good job of including these poems; they fit in very nicely where she places them. I think I like them so much because they are Renée's raw emotions. I feel these poems exactly depict the way that she was feeling in that time in her life. The down side is that the majority of her poems are depressing and they make her seem so utterly lost from people and from God. She tries so desperately to find a place that she fits in and a God that loves her that she will do practically anything to get it.
The word reborn is the perfect word to describe her since she is not the little girl that got raped "in God's name" by her father. She has moved away from that person; she does not even know who that person is anymore. She does a remarkable job showing how she changed from the frightened little girl to the independent woman.
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on April 18, 2016
I stumbled upon this one in the bookstore the other day. It's a truly beautiful story of pain, horror, doubt, and faith. The author lived through absolute hell--torture inflicted on her in the name of God--and managed to come out alive on the other side. It's a story of faith in the midst of pain, and questions, and doubts, and brokenness and humility. This is what real Christianity looks like. This is real faith.
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