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I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth Hardcover – February 2, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Talk of the rapture—the ascent to heaven of true Christians before the end of the world—surrounds Peterson (Duck and Cover), and she engages this conversation with delicacy, humor, frustration, and, at times, a begrudging respect, in this memoir about growing up among Southern Baptists and not quite fitting in. Peterson's story is told through what is really a series of vignettes, tied together by two themes, faith and the environment. She looks back at her childhood, college, and then adulthood, stopping here and there, selecting scenes from her life that show why she finds God outdoors, and why the rapture-obsessed family and community of her youth quickly loses its appeal. Her love for this world and everything in it is far greater than any promise of salvation apart from and above it. Readers interested in a story about leaving behind theologically conservative Christianity and other types of extremism will find Peterson's collection of anecdotes and remembered conversations engaging. The chapters can be read on their own, and her prologue, The Trumpet Shall Sound, and chapter In the Garden are among the best. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Peterson has been sharpening her ethos on the flinty tenets of the Southern Baptist Church ever since she was an inquisitive child enthralled by the living world. Following her fourth novel, Animal Heart (2004), she continues the inquiry into her complex heritage and ecological calling that she began in Build Me an Ark (2001). In this unusually affecting and radiant spiritual memoir, Peterson recounts her resistance to End Times teachings. Surely, life on earth is sacred, thought this “increasingly mutinous mystic” alert to the contradictions between her parents’ heaven-focused religion and her CIA-employed mother’s earthiness and her gifted father’s devotion to nature as chief of the U.S. Forest Service. With stirring immediacy, Peterson describes the traumatic awakenings during the 1960s and 1970s that inspired her to reject the concept of the Rapture and embrace the effort to preserve earthly creation. Guided by exceptional mentors, Peterson endured experiences painful, ludicrous, and profound in small towns, a “boot camp for Southern Baptists,” and the offices of the New Yorker before finding her true home on the Pacific coast. Frankly and knowledgeably critiquing evangelicalism and holier-than-thou environmentalism, Peterson seeks a meeting of church and earth in this witty, enrapturing account of a spiritual journey of great relevance to us all. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; NONE, A Merloyd Lawrence Book edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818042
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,701,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What I particularly liked about Brenda Peterson's spiritual memoir, I Want To Be Left Behind, is that she's gone two steps further than most of our modern thinkers do. When thinking about living a life, there are three things that must be touched upon, especially when one wants to live a good, fulfilling life.

First, is the idea that there should be harmony and what C.S. Lewis called "fair play" between individuals. Second, there is the "harmonisation" (Lewis was British) of the inner life. Third, there is the knowledge of what humanity is here for, what we're supposed to be doing, and what voices we listen to as we do it. Modern thinkers have got the harmony and "fair play" idea down pat. We've got tons of books (memoirs even) about this. It's the loudest cry of our modern world. "Hey, let's play fair. Can't we all just get along?"

While Peterson espouses this idea all throughout her book, she takes us deeper into the personal "harmonisation" of her inner self. When a hasty (probably well-meaning, but ill-advised) comment from a Vacation Bible School teacher frustrates the young Peterson, she begins to assemble her own inner life "harmonisation" at a very young age. Rather than accept the idea that God could not appear in nature (every experience she had with her Forest Ranger father and nature-loving family had taught her exactly the opposite), Peterson began a quest to live a life that fit what she authentically believed already. No one can fault her for that. That's the beauty of the book. It's a journey of inner harmony.

But it's the third point that I find the most to learn from. What is humanity here for? What are we supposed to be going? What voice are we listening to?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book last night and slept feeling very much at peace. Brenda's description of her family and reunions were such a joy to read - I instantly fell in love with her parents. There is so much I learned from this book about nature, family, animals and spirituality. My favorite chapter was In the Gardens - I couldn't imagine how the writer left her job at the New Yorker and moved to the middle of no where to look after a farm and grow corn. Once I read that chapter I cried, I understood the passion and connection she felt with nature and nurturing nature. This book transported my to various family gatherings and experiences from Brenda's life and I now have a better understanding of the Southern Baptist culture, nature, kindness and importance of family - no matter what flavor they come in.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The writer's journey from the "rapture" of her family's religious beliefs to her discovery of rapture in nature is an intelligent, thoughtful story. The author relates her journey with honesty and gentle humor and avoids judging those around her who are true believers.
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Format: Hardcover
In her memoir I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here On Earth novelist and nature writer Brenda Peterson explores the paradox of a family both deeply in love with nature and deeply committed to the belief that the true salvation will only come with the earthÕs destruction.

The lone liberal in a family of conservative Southern Baptists, Peterson writes lyrically about her early childhood in a Forest Service station--and in a world where God and Satan, and the impending Rapture are as real as the forests she loves. She traces her path away from her conservative Southern Baptist childhood, through the Civil Rights era, protests at Berkeley, a fledging career at The New Yorker, another career farming in Colorado, and then yet a third career as a nature writer in Seattle.

Peterson's account of a transformative period in American history is fascinating. Equally fascinating is the more intimate journey she and her family take in finding paths through the deep religious and political schisms that divide them. The climax of the book comes in an epiphany--that fundamentalists and environmentalists butt heads not because they are so very different, but because they are flip sides of the same coin.
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Format: Hardcover
To understand the significance of memoir and the balance an author must try to find, Judith Barrington writes in her book "Writing the Memoir:"
Memoirists have to make peace with the possibility that there is no more an absolute truth in memoir than there is in life. When writing memoir, I sometimes reorder events to make the story work. I approximate dialogue that I can't recall word for word. While taking these liberties with factual truth, I feel honor bound to capture the essence of the interaction in the events. Toni Morrison explains that, "The crucial distinction is not the difference between fact and fiction, but the distinction between fact and truth."
We are often told than keeping quiet is a kind of loyalty, that speaking out is a betrayal of family, colleagues, friends, institutions, country. Women, especially, know that we are expected to keep the peace ... and always "make nice." Telling the truth almost always breaks unspoken laws, whether it be a family or a larger community. No matter what story you tell, there can always be someone who didn't want to be mentioned, someone who ought to have been mentioned, or someone who thinks you got it all wrong. So why risk causing unpleasantness? For some reason particular to you and your life, you need to tell the truth.
It is that unique blend of truth and art - a blend that may take years of practice to achieve - that can touch a reader's heart with immediate sorrow or lift a reader's spirits in a flash of recognition. We all learn from one another's stories, which is, perhaps, the great gift of memoir. We watch the memoirist make sense of her life and no matter how different our circumstances; we find some commonality with her and feel a little less alone in the world.
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