Living with a Wild God

Are You There God? It’s Me, Barbara Ehrenreich.

Living with a Wild God

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.'”

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!

If Only They Could Talk

Country-Vet. Living: Book I

If Only They Could Talk by James Herriot

First Line: “They didn’t say anything about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back.”

It’s 1937 and rookie veterinarian James Herriot has just partnered with the eccentric (but established) Siegfried Farnon in the quaint English countryside of Darrowby. What happens when they get a midnight call for a cow with milk fever? Is there any hope for a champion horse with a torsion? Better yet–how does one treat the irksome “eversion of the uterus?”

Because Herriot continually faces literal life-and-death situations, each chapter is its own mini-adventure. The episodes are emotional and wonderfully comedic. Herriot introduces characters (humans and animals alike) that are distinct. The typical clients are gritty farmers skeptical of his qualifications, yet there’s also Mrs. Pumphrey–a wealthy widow who personifies and spoils her dog Tricki. Thus, Herriot’s work bonuses range from free suppers and slabs of butter, to elaborate party invitations and expensive brandy.

Herriot’s home life is equally engaging. Hilarity abounds when Farnon’s younger brother Tristan comes to stay. There’s trouble with the bill notifications, escaped chickens, and prank phone calls. What’s not to love?

I’m thrilled to say that Herriot’s adventures continue in seven other collections. Each has a permanent place on my “to-read” list, because, as Herriot reflects, “If you decide to become a veterinary surgeon you will never grow rich, but you will have a life of endless interest and variety.”

I think the same goes for reading about a country vet.

Bottom Line: Here’s your chance to job shadow one of the world’s most rewarding careers–all from the comfort of your armchair.