Sanctimommies & Child-Free-By-Choicers Note
Writing in Commentary this month — the piece is behind the subscriber paywall — Heather Wilhelm reviews my memoir The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming along with a memoir called I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids, by comedian Jen Kirkman. I hadn’t heard of Kirkman book, but reviewing them together was an illuminating choice. As Wilhelm puts it, Kirkman and I live in different universes — as you can easily discern by Kirkman’s title. The review concludes:
“Somebody is always going to be disappointed with your life choice,” Kirkman writes, “and my rule of thumb is that as long as I’m not the one who is disappointed, I can live with that.”
Dreher comes to a different conclusion. “There has to be balance,” he writes. “Not everyone is meant to stay—or to stay away—forever. There are seasons in the lives of persons and of families. Our responsibility, both to ourselves and to each other, is to seek harmony within the limits of what we are given—and to give each other grace.”
Both books, in the end, flirt with questions deeply embedded in the great American debate: Are we obligated to anyone beyond ourselves? And if so, how? Kirkman’s book may be a bit of a hot mess, but it also offers something quite powerful: a clear, albeit unintentional, portrait of modern American secularism. It’s a worldview born of flashing lights, Internet noise, constant distraction, and an impressive lack of curiosity about what lies behind life’s final door. Dreher’s book, with its focus on deeper meaning, offers an alternative view. It’s quiet. It’s complicated. And, perhaps vexingly for some, it doesn’t offer all the answers. This is because, unlike the bulk of our nation’s fiery lifestyle fisticuffs, it’s a genuine search for truth. Sanctimommies—as well as the “child-free by choice”—should take note.
Thanks, Heather, for your kind words about my book.
I’ve been away from the keys almost all day, in Baton Rouge. Matthew and I went to see the Brad Pitt zombie movie (did you know that after Pitt’s character Gerry Lane saved the world from the zombie menace, he retired to Baton Rouge to sell Chevys?). (The movie was pretty good, not great). We had lunch with an enthusiastic reader of Little Way, a Baton Rouge pastor. It was really a great time. One thing she said that lingers in my memory this evening: that for some people, the narrative will open the way to deep waters with treacherous currents, and that could explain why it hasn’t been as popular as a conventional sentimental book would have been.
Along those lines, earlier this morning, I did an interview with Lynne Ford, a talk radio host for WBCL, a Christian radio station in the Midwest. Here’s a link to the audio. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done yet for the book — and Lynne Ford dwelled on the emotional rawness of the story. I lived with the story for so long I lost this sense of its potency; even now, it’s a surprise to learn from readers how intense the narrative was for them.
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