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This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost Hardcover – March 6, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1582341613 ISBN-10: 1582341613 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582341613
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582341613
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Briggs's memoir is a riveting page-turner that rings emotionally true, as well as a brave contribution to a growing literature that tells the extraordinary stories of supposedly ordinary women. Its first third, however, has become all too familiar: A bookish, awkward girl from the wrong side of the tracks blossoms but is thwarted in her attempts to rise above her station. This motif has appeared in many a novel, memoir and film in the past few decades, and its charm and power have worn thin. The book breaks newer ground as it chronicles Briggs's adult life as a born-again Christian. Most fascinating is her account of her faith community in the 1970s; as self-identified "Jesus Freaks," she and her friends blended progressive/alternative practices such as eating health food and nursing each other's children with right-wing religious dogma. Too little has been written about American Christian fundamentalism among hippies in the pre-Moral Majority days, and, as such, Briggs's book shines light in a dim corner. Unfortunately, her exoticized depiction of born-again believers as well as her abrupt and superficial explanation of her loss of faith seem more self-serving and less honest than the rest of the book. One understands why she fled a stultifying marriage and a suffocating theology, but her newfound atheism is a mystery. Regardless, readers will find this book as addictive as a good novel, and it will leave them asking questions about their own lives and faith experiences.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Briggs writes with unflinching honesty and the remarkable story she tells cuts to the marrow. Her journey rewards with a clarity of insight that is its own grace and redemption. This is a work that truly enlarges the human spirit."—Roy Parvin, author of In the Snow Forest and The Loneliest Road in America

"Briggs's memoir is a riveting page-turner that rings emotionally true, as well as a brave contribution to a growing literature that tells the extraordinary stories of supposedly ordinary women . . . [It breaks new] ground as it chronicles Briggs's adult life as a born-again Christian. Most fascinating is her account of her faith community in the 1970s; as self-identified 'Jesus Freaks,' she and her friends blended progressive/alternative practices such as eating health food and nursing each other's children with right-wing religious dogma. Too little has been written about American Christian fundamentalism among hippies in the pre-Moral Majority days, and, as such, Briggs's book shines light in a dim corner . . . Readers will find this book as addictive as a good novel, and it will leave them asking questions about their own lives and faith experiences."—Publishers Weekly

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Customer Reviews

Questions like these abound, but are too often glossed over or ignored.
Tia
It makes one think that the religion-on-their-sleeves characters she mocks through most of the book just might have a point after all.
Nick Dorosheff
It tells its story with wit and insight, intelligence and poetry and skill.
aaron jorgensen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Tia on July 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First of all: Carolyn Briggs has chosen to share her story with the world, a story which might anger some, and she should be admired for having the courage to do so. It's because this is her personal story that I've given this two stars instead of one - she deserves credit for examining her experiences and trying to come to terms with them, and for opening her soul up to the world in this way.
That said, this is a frustrating, disappointing and ultimately sad book. Briggs' early days as a confused pregnant teenager are portrayed well, and her eventual drift into a radical Pentecostal church is understandable and moving. However, it is here that the book begins to go wrong. Briggs' intellectually stifling experiences in the church are contrasted with her growing personal desire to explore and question her life and her religion; however, this conflict is presented with surprisingly little insight into her motivations and actions. Did Briggs do any research into or exploring of Christianity on her own? Did she try, but was prevented? How did she square these new feelings with the feelings of her conversion? Questions like these abound, but are too often glossed over or ignored. Briggs seems unwilling to look too deeply at her loss of faith and the possible alternatives that she chose not to explore. As a result, her eventual apparent conversion to atheism is baffling - was there nothing about her faith she thought salvageable? If not, why? Has she considered that if it was so easy to throw it away, it may not have been faith that she had in the first place? As it stands, the book reads like she simply decided that religion was too hard and tossed it.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. Jacobs on March 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found This Dark World to be readable, at times engrossing, and a valuable insight into the born-again mentality. The positive sides of the Christian existence, namely the close relationship (fellowship) with a community of fellow worshippers, was very clearly described in this book. At times, I almost felt jealous of what the author had, which is a rare experience for me indeed.
And that's the problem with this book. The vast majority of the book details the author's life as a Christian, but it is written almost with the mindset she had at the time. That is to say, her thoughts and experiences at the time are vividly described, but moments of introspection are rare - seldom is there a thought looking critically at her inner life with the benefit of subsequent experience. There is no attempt at analysis of the Christian experience from the perspective of an experienced unbeliever. In fact, the "deconversion" is somewhat lukewarm (and sudden, in terms of the amount of space devoted to it), and is motivated mostly by a desire for a more fulfilling relationship rather than a critical examination of the narrow cosmology she espoused as a born-again.
Therefore I felt that the book didn't live up to its promise. What I hoped for was a journey from naivete to fundamentalism and then onward to a more mature outlook, and to some degree this is what's delivered, but there's no space devoted to writing *about* the journey, just a description of how it felt at the time.
I'd love to hear, for example, the author's thoughts on the phenomenon of speaking in tongues (the "prayer language" she develops) now that she is no longer a believer. What does she think was going on? How does she explain her ecstatic mental state without the benefit of the holy ghost?
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By shan1212 on August 10, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book expecting something along the lines of Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase. Knowing that the author would ultimately reject her faith (no secret when you read "A memoir of salvation found and lost" on the cover), I assumed that she would ultimately be forced to acknowledge the gut-wrenching, terrifying, irreconcilable conflict between the faith of her youth and her reason. As someone who belonged to a group similar to the nondenominational and evangelical churches Carolyn describes when I was a teen and young adult, I guess I was just hoping to read the experiences of someone who had gone through what I had when I left. But she didn't.

I suspect that the first chapters were written as exercises in autobiographical short stories, probably shared with her classes (or perhaps the whole thing was just written to impress her tenure committee). There's Carolyn, our young Scout, with her tireless mother and her embarrassing home by the town dump. Then there's the chapter about her sister getting braces, and a reappearance of her mother, now leggy and captivating, like the narrator's mother in A Prayer for Owen Meany. Instead of presenting a rounded characterization of her mother, she simply presents her as one female archetype, then another. This seems to be how Briggs views herself as well. More on that later.

Briggs fills in details that couldn't (and shouldn't) be remembered, especially what was served for dinner the night a conversation or incident took place. Yes, fabricating details makes a story read better, but it makes us doubt the veracity of our author.

I'm certainly not the first reviewer to say it, but I'll join in the chorus that finds her deconversion completely perplexing and self-serving.
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