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The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray Hardcover – March 13, 2007


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The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray + Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Second Edit
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307347354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307347350
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,659,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ten years ago Crittenden walked timidly into an Episcopal church in Berkeley, Calif. Overwhelmed with grief, she needed something to sustain her. Therapy had helped her deal with her beloved younger brother's death, but it was not enough. A priest suggested prayer. In this exquisitely written memoir, she traces her experience of prayer from hesitant beginnings—"I left 'God' out of it, as I repeated the simple statement. 'You are here, I am here' "—to regular, disciplined practice. Prayer, she told an uncle, was like writing. "If I waited for inspiration, I'd never write a word.... I had to make prayer a habit, to go to it the way I went each morning to the desk. Not to summon prayer, but to tap into what was already there." Crittenden, whose essay on her mother's death appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing 2004, faced repeated bereavement as she learned to trust God, herself and others. Nowadays, she writes, "being in community holds me like a trapeze harness for sailing out over the void." Fans of Nora Gallagher and Patricia Hampl will welcome her narrative of spiritual exploration and discovery. (Mar. 20)
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Review

“Prayer, as Lindsey Crittenden lives it, is not some pious mental exercise, but
a state of receptiveness. This is a thinking person’s spiritual book: rich, gutsy, and written with poetic grace that powers a touching family saga. The Water Will
Hold You is absolutely exquisite.”
—Rachel Howard, author of The Lost Night

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By ALISON on April 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is not another top-down instruction manual, but a bottom-up construction of a life with the spirit, written with searing honesty and realism. Crittenden has a tough journey, from her first timid movements toward prayer ("I am here, you are here" is all she can manage at first) through grief and depression, and into a fuller life.

I loved her grasping for ritual in prayer, from candles to prayer books to the Anglican rosary, looking for structure to hold up the amorphous communication with the divine.

One of my favourite reads of the year, this memoir is a beautiful prayer in itself, reaching out to the heights and depths of life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on July 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When she was four years old Lindsey Crittenden was practicing that magical trick many an adult still remembers learning -- floating on your back in the swimming pool. When you flap and flail, you will sink, but if you just relax, said her swimming instructor Mrs. Ursula, "the water will hold you." And such is the experience of Christian prayer as she describes it in this memoir.

By her college years Crittenden was a lapsed Episcopalian and a doubter, but in 1996 she walked into All Souls Church in Berkeley and, to her shock, embarked on a life-time pilgrimage shaped by Christian prayer. At first her prayers were visceral and spontaneous: "You are here, I am here." As her faith grew, initial spontaneity gave way to disciplined intentionality, including regular worship, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the rosary, candles, and spiritual direction from her pastors. She compares a life of prayer to her discipline of writing: "If I waited for inspiration, I'd never write a word. . . . I had to make prayer a habit, to go to it the way I went each morning to the desk. Not to summon prayer, but to tap into what was already there."

That discipline became essential to negotiating a complex and extremely painful family history. Her adopted brother Blake, hounded by drug addictions, was killed in a homicide. Her parents, then retirement age, gained custody of her nephew Dylan and became his de facto parents. When her mother died of cancer her aging father was effectively a single parent. Then followed a broken and deeply troubling relationship with a man, a vicious clinical depression that lasted over a year, and then a third death, her father's, all of which left her feeling like a Christian "failure and a fraud." In the end, she writes, Christian prayer is not only a way through loss and grief, it is a call of love and grace (p. 227); it's the growing realization that, yes, the water will hold us if we learn to relax.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eve Decker on May 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lindsey Crittenden is intelligent and discerning; not one who would turn to God or prayer on faith alone. She is also a person to whom life has given an unusual amount of loss. The fire of isolation brought her into an Episcopalian church, where she met people who believe in God and the teachings of Jesus yet who welcome questions, keen intellect, and authentic sharing of the vulnerability of the heart. Encouraged to experiment, Lindsey discovered faith based not on dogma but on personal experience. Regular prayer creates space for insight, re-framing, and a bodily knowing that one is loved by a Divine presence.

After finding a connection to well-being through prayer, Lindsey experienced betrayal and loss that was perhaps the straw on the camel's back. She then survived months of extreme grief and depression during which prayer seemed obsolete. But with time and perseverence Spirit found her again, through nature. Prayer and divinity are much larger and less predictable than a quiet morning meditation or a Sunday at church, though these rituals are often crucial.

This book is beautifully written; a fascinating and searingly honest memoir. It's a great read on that level alone. But readers interested in the powerful effect of a concious spiritual practice will find a special resonance. One does not have to be Christian to appreciate this point, or Lindsey's fascinating book. Lindsey is simply telling her own story, prescribing nothing to the reader; any one who chooses can find reinforcement in this book for their own efforts to clear a path for the Divine.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Knowing about author Lindsey Crittenden's work, I expected this book to be well written--full of evocative descriptions and beautifully crafted language. What I could not have anticipated was the poignancy of the storytelling presented in the book. More than a skeptic's journey with faith, this book speaks to the darkness and grief associated with loss--loss of our previous beliefs, loss of who we understand ourselves to be, loss of loved ones. And it also speaks to the power of the human spirit to muddle through the muddy, sinking quagmire life presents us with sometimes and the strength and grace it takes to make it out of there alive.

This is an incredibly moving and honest book about spirituality, family, and the power we have inside to persevere despite the unexpected twists and turns our lives take.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on February 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime journalist covering the power of spirituality in everyday life, I am drawn to memoirs that -- like Lindsey's story of her life -- invite us into fresh waters. I've read thousands of books in 30-plus years of journalism and I always feel sad when I realize that countless waves of promising spiritual memoirs wind up rippling safely in tried-and-true pools.

One phrase I've picked up in critiquing and covering spiritual media, just over the past year, is "the fix is in." The phrase handily describes those books, memoirs especially, in which we can tell from Page 1 precisely what will happen on Page 250.

Not so with Lindsey's book, which is why I've been recommending it in my writing for more than a year -- and I'm freshly recommending it during Lent 2008 in an online Lenten project I'm helping to publish. I was moved by her writing about her relationship with her mother toward the end of her mother's life. But, more than that, I was moved by Lindsey's solid-as-steel commitment as a memoirist to be honest about her life.

This honesty takes us places, as readers, that we sometimes may not want to go. There are passages in this book that you may never have expected to read in a spiritual memoir. Certainly, Lindsey takes us a good step beyond Anne Lamott. But that's what makes it a terrific book.

It's honest. And, yes, honestly this memoir "Will Hold You."
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