Read Dear Bob by Annie Porthouse Free Online
Book Title: Dear Bob|
The author of the book: Annie Porthouse
Edition: Scripture Union (UK)
Date of issue: April 4th 2003
ISBN 13: 9781859996331
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.12 MB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1767 times
Reader ratings: 5.4
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I should probably start this review with a few disclaimers. First, as a 40-something male, I'm well outside the teen girl target market, and my own issues with Christian culture make me fairly scathing towards Christian books. Bear that in mind as you read this. I do feel I'm being a bit harsh - I did consider three stars, because parts of the book were strong and interesting to read, but the end massively let it down.
The book is written in diary form, following eighteen-year-old Jude as she leaves home and goes to the fictional Bymouth University, which from descriptions is somewhere in the West of England. Jude has been brought up in a charismatic church and is a Christian, but she has bit of a crisis of faith and seriously thinks about giving up on God. It's the tale of her first year of student life, the people she meets, and her spiritual experience.
I'll start by being positive. Despite a few bits which grated and jarred, Jude comes across as a credible, realistic, believable and ultimately quite likeable character, and most - but by no means all - of the situations she finds herself in seem realistic and believable too. Like a lot of people brought up in Christian culture, she's quite naïve and has a lot to learn, and that's the main thrust of the book. The descriptions of life in university Christian Unions are pretty spot-on - I know because I've been there. The other characters all come across quite credibly too, and it very accurately reflects what young and earnest Christians are like - all trying a bit too hard to outdo each other.
A lot of the book is good, in terms of being an accurate portrayal of just how unsettling and difficult it can be when significant doubts assail the belief system you've invested everything in. I know because I've been there, but the conclusion for me was rather different than the conclusion in this book.
Let's face it, it's fairly obvious how this book is going to end. It's by a Christian author, it features a Christian main character, and it's published by a Christian organisation. It's going to end with Jude resolving her doubts and being on fire for the Lord. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but let's not pretend the book is agenda-free. It isn't, at all. It's designed to steer young people in a very particular direction. You're not supposed to give up and walk away - the answer is to keep ploughing on until you get things sorted.
Given the nature of the book, I don't think any of what follows could be considered a spoiler.
I knew this was coming. It doesn't reflect my own experience at all - I waited years for God to sort me out before I realised it just wasn't going to happen. I found the end to be extremely cheesy and disappointing, and thought it really lets readers down by being so cut and dried. It could have been so much better if it had been a bit more open-ended, and asked a few more questions, encouraging readers to find their own path, rather than being presented with the one that is obviously being pushed as The Only True Way. It's a shame because I think a lot of young Christians trying to work through doubt could end up feeling discouraged and depressed that it doesn't all turn out so easy for them.
Ultimately, Jude only vaguely scratches the surface of her doubt. The book seems rather anti-intellectual in places and it's pretty shallow, not helped by the fact that the writing style is a blatant rip-off of Bridget Jones. If you're not familiar with British evangelical church culture, you'll be left scratching your head a bit too. It's disappointing that leaving the church isn't presented as a valid option - it's hinted at towards the end of the book, but you know what's going to happen.
I'm also massively annoyed that at the same time as her return to God, Jude manages to pull a bloke too, someone she spends the whole book slagging off, but hey, isn't God great? It's pretty much saying that she's not complete without (a) a rock-solid faith in God and (b) a man, which seems pretty patronising. It's almost saying that her worth is measured purely by how "good" a Christian she is. This seems to jar with other parts of the book that rather impressively debunk the "good Christian" stereotype. I'm left thinking that Jude has kissed a lot of her brains and independence goodbye, surrendering to being pretty much a public piece of property, conforming to everything the church tells her to do, despite the perfectly valid questions she spends much of the book asking.
Had the potential to be so much better. Far too quick, neat and tidy a conclusion.
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