Lauren Winner brings her admirable honesty and relatable charm to the page once again, sharing the details of her faith life following her divorce and the death of her mother in her latest book, “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.”
In true Winner fashion, she shares with her readers much, but in this case chose to leave something out. While early readers of the book suggested that she include mention of her personal dating prognosis—whether she plans to date again, or remarry—she felt that such information would be out of place.
“This is a book about God,” she said.
And, as she explains in the book’s preface, it’s not a memoir, though it reads easily like one. Rather, she described it as a collection of “episodic notes”; indeed, some of the chapters use only one page of space.
While the subject matter of “Still” proved to be emotionally challenging for Winner as she constructed the manuscript, she explained that the structural challenges of the craft were greater for her. While creating the episodic notes, she would sometimes draft a chapter as many as 10 times, but in so doing came to understand things about her spiritual life she hadn’t known before.
Whereas Winner’s “Girl Meets God” (2002) chronicles her journey from Judaism to Christianity, “Still” examines a rocking of the Christian boat. Winner describes the time following her divorce and the death of her mother as a spiritual “middle” season.
“Writing the book was a process of discovery for me,” she said. She doesn’t expect the book to be a best-seller, but she hopes it will speak to people and has already received some emails from readers giving voice to the book’s impact in their lives. She discovered in her “middle” time that a religion that once continually intrigued her curiosity could actually come to bore her. Nonetheless, she clung to it amid crisis.
Asked if her own experience with divorce changed her perspective of her parents’ split, she said she hadn’t really thought about it. What it has done, she said, is make her more sympathetic toward people who are going through divorce themselves.
As for what’s next on her plate: Winner is currently crafting a book on dislocated exegesis, a practice to which she devotes some pages in “Still,” sharing with readers her experiences of reading Scripture in "unexpected places.” She feels really evangelistic about it, she said, and wants to share it with the universe, noting that it doesn’t just have to be a Christian practice.
What’s literally on her plate, currently, is another activity she discusses in “Still”: baking. Discussing a blueberry and lemon sugar muffin recipe from Cooks Illustrated magazine brings notes of obvious culinary delight to her voice. “It is fabulous,” she said. —Bailey Brewer