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Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir Hardcover – July 28, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“The tension between the sacred and the secular permeates every page of this heartfelt memoir. . . . Poignantly describe[s] the grace and beauty of ordinary moments.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

Raised in evangelical churches that preach apocalypse now, Carlene Bauer grows up happy to oblige the God who presides over her New Jersey girlhood. But in high school and in college, her intellectual and spiritual horizons widen, though still she finds it hard to let go of her ingrained ideals and to rebel as she knows she should. She loves rock 'n' roll but politely declines offers of sex and drugs, and hovers between a hunger for the world and a suspicion of it. In her twenties, however, determined to make up for lost time, Bauer undertakes a belated and often comic coming-of-age in New York City—ultimately falling in love and losing her religion, and left wondering just what it means to be good.

Sharply written, hilarious, and touching, Not That Kind of Girl is the story of one young woman's efforts to define worldliness, ambition, and love on her own terms.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060840544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060840549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,697,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love memoirs, especially ones about addiction, my motto being, "the more debauched the better." But Carlene Bauer has written quite a different sort of memoir. Her story is of a good girl who is both equally baffled by and attracted to the misbehaviors of her peers. Not one to go unreflectively forth, Bauer ponders her way through to her 30's. Luckily for us, all of her introspection is written in precise and evocative prose, laced with humor, wit, self-deprecation and honest admissions of pain and humiliation. If you have a functioning brain, if you think about your place in the world, if you've ever felt awkward, disappointed by reality, or wanted more than what made the rest of the people around you happy-you will love this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up after reading a review/excerpt on [...]. As an avid reader of memoirs, I was excited to find one that tackled the subject of spirituality from a Christian experience. Ms. Bauer's writing is engaging, and I had no problem going along for the ride. I enjoyed her lyrical turns of phrase and creative metaphors but found, like a prior reviewer, that some of her references were obscure (or perhaps, over my history major head). I also found myself stumbling every now and then on over-worked phrasing that took me out of the rhythm of reading.

The work itself is honest, open, detailed and entertaining. . . for the first 75% of the book. It seemed like so much care and detail was given to the first part of the book that I was disappointed at the rushed turn things took once she decided to convert to Catholicism. It seemed from that point on, things were combined, edited down, rushed and passed over. Additionally, it's hard to feel satisfied with the trajectory of the story when something as crucial as the author losing her faith is given all of a few paragraphs of development (it was unclear, was it 9/11 solely? The book seemed to imply that after 9/11 she just stopped going to church and walked away from God, but it was so under-explored for something so huge.). Likewise, her two real adult relationships feel tacked on at the end. I can't decide if the odd way those relationships are handled (referring to her boyfriend as "her friend", no name, no pseudonym) is due to real life legal issues (no releases) or rush to publication?
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Format: Hardcover
There is no doubt about it--Carlene Bauer can write. I found her book more interesting as she was wrapping up her story because there was a bit more action and less talk. The attraction she feels to two men and the enigma she faces in her spiritual life both make the final chapters compelling.

Up to that point I sometimes found myself drowning in a sea of words. She can be so obtuse that several chapters went by before I realized that she was still a virgin, that all those nocturnal encounters with a string of young men stopped short of consummation.

Bauer wants a man who is both sexually exciting and intellectually fascinating. She wants a religion that she can believe in totally with no exceptions. Born into fundamentalism, she soon discovers its restrictions don't make for a comfortable fit, but Catholicism doesn't mesh with her beliefs either. Her childhood love of God and Jesus doesn't translate once she reaches adulthood and faces life as a single woman in New York City. 9-11, as it does for many others, has a startling effect on her spirituality.

She seems to be fulfilled in the other areas of her life. She enjoys her writing career in a high-rise building where the camaraderie between her and her colleagues is satisfying. Still, by the final page, when she must walk by the Pentecostal meeting with the joyful faces, we're aware that there's something missing but she can't compromise herself. She doesn't find the perfect religion or the perfect man by the final chapter.

I thought of Ernest Hemingway and The Lost Generation. I thought of Ernest, the protagonist in The Way of All Flesh who casts aside his religious life and academic life for what he sees as life on his own terms. His writing also is the highlight of his existence.
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Format: Hardcover
I haven't read many memoirs where I felt compelled to underline sentences because they resonated so strongly with my own view of the world. NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL almost could be my story --- a prudish and bookish girl growing up in the '80s and '90s with a passion for evangelical Christianity and an equally passionate love of words. Just like the author Carlene Bauer, "I was sure that when people talked about using our gifts to glorify [God], it meant that God was going to put me to work writing devotional guides for teenage girls." And just like Bauer, I wasn't sure that this was the life I wanted.

Bauer did have one thing that I didn't --- a life plan involving majoring in English right out of high school and moving to New York to work as a writer. While I did eventually get my English degree and have now visited New York, this memoir allows me to live vicariously through Bauer and see a life that at the ripe "old" age of 32 I feel I cannot pursue now. And not only can I see this life, I can see it through the eyes of a young girl equally afraid of her own sexuality, equally stuck in the lives of dead authors' romantic heroines, equally replacing underlining in Bibles with underlining in novels that refreshingly offer no one truth, and, ultimately, equally stumbling through life without all the answers.

There were moments when Bauer and I took the exact same steps --- the same Christian hang-ups bothered us in the same order, starting with the phrase "How's your walk with the Lord?" and ending with a desperate scramble to find some denomination that let women be feminists and congregants be liberal but ultimately failing in this quest.
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