Monday, March 30, 2020

"Learning to Walk in the Dark" - Barbara Brown Taylor

Given my love of Barbara Brown Taylor's "Holy Envy," the first book of hers I've read, I had high hopes that this first book of my 2020 Reader's Challenge would be a 5-star winner.

Sadly, I was disappointed by "Learning to Walk in the Dark," an interesting read that never really had me fully engaged and only once felt truly enlightening as it explored the notion of learning how, as believers, to embrace walking in the dark.

The issues I had with the book ranged from technical concerns to an overall perception that the author was simply ill-equipped to handle the subject matter.

I'll explain.

First off, for a more serious subject matter, the design of the Kindle version of this book was simply abysmal. The spacing is dreadful and dense, the font doing it no favors. Reading the Kindle version was absolute labor - this issue did not exist with Holy Envy.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this book was, almost per the author's own words, nothing more than an academic pursuit. In the closing chapter, she actually refers to her study of darkness. This book feels like a "study." It doesn't feel like it's guided by anything resembling Spirit. It doesn't feel like it's designed to help or support or inform. It feels truly academic. While this may be what was intended, this is not how the book is advertised. While she acknowledges in the last chapter that this was not intended as an instruction manual, she also acknowledges that she has a tendency to write books before knowing what they're about. This approach can definitely work - many famous authors do it and she's clearly done it. It simply didn't work here for me. The book felt unfocused and meandering at times.

Third, early in the book, she writes that she's not really experienced "darkness" in the human sense. The "darkness" she largely writes about is more of spiritual darkness, though she does dabble, mostly poorly, in the area of physical darkness via blindness. It's in this section that the book is at its ableist worst. At times, the book feels like one of those conversations you have with your bestie at Denny's after they've read the latest self-help book and they've now determined themselves to be an expert on the subject matter.

Truly, I found it troubling. I found the chapter referencing blindness somewhat offensive, though obviously unintentionally so.

Overall, I simply found "Learning to Walk in the Dark" a disappointing read. While I can appreciate that some will benefit from the book's journey through spiritual darkness, the book overall feels like a missed opportunity to explore an important and meaningful subject.

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