Are You There God? It’s Me, Barbara Ehrenreich.
Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich
First Line: “Sometime in my thirteenth year, but a little before I actually achieved that age, things began to assemble themselves into what I called ‘the situation.'”
I think I heard about Ehrenreich’s most recent title from the radio. But then I forget about it. And then, a few weeks back, it appeared again–staring at me from that library shrine: “New Arrivals.”
This is a difficult review to write because the book itself is…confused. For example, its catalog card label: my library copy has a “B” on the spine, but Ehrenreich notes in the Foreword, “I will never write an autobiography, nor am I sure, after all these years, that there is even one coherent ‘self’ or ‘voice’ to serve as narrator.” From this assertion, I think Ehrenreich means that this account, this book, is not a complete or full representation of her life up until 2013 (or whenever). To which I say, “Duh. No book can cover everything.” But it’s even more complicated than that. Ehrenreich wrote Living with a Wild God as a sort of response to her younger self’s journals. Thus, the narrator is a blend of her past and present voices. She’s a scientist, journalist, and atheist (maybe) trying to make sense out of this GOD encounter she had one morning during a predawn walk. But how can someone analyze a mystical experience?
Perhaps we should call this book a memoir-journal-essay. It’s a trinity definition! It’s a memoir because it’s a nonfiction, first-person narrative. It’s a journal because it’s deeply personal, extremely private, and is essentially a conversation between Ehrenreich and her higher/inner self. It’s an essay because it’s tackling and expanding on one specific topic (her mystic-moment). I love these qualities! Yet I still feel that the tone is often dark. The young Ehrenreich identified with a solipsistic perspective on the world that struck me as creepy and cold. Sure, she grows out of this phase, her attitude and focus shifts to philanthropy, but she some of those teen years were troubling.
Despite my jumbled review–trying to comprehend Ehrenreich trying to comprehend “the situation”–Living with a Wild God is, believe it or not, cohesive. The events build and flow and there’s a timeline and even though I liken it to a journal about a journal, it’s not a ramble or rant. It’s an exploration. There’s a powerful story in these pages. Is it a testimonial? I don’t know. But I’m glad I got to read this non-autobiography. I’m grateful to Ehrenreich for being so bold to share.
Bottom Line: Raw, rich, real, and (yippee!) really mentally- and emotionally-exhausting!