By Kevin Norris
As I perused through the jackets of the new releases at my local Barnes and Nobel’s bookstore, I glanced over at a yellow covered hardback book. Its red, orange and green writing caught my eye. I looked down and read the title: Post Traumatic Church Syndrome. “What the heck is that?” I mumbled. I immediately googled it. However, nothing showed up but the memoir. As a result, I atomically associated it with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), which a google search defined as “A mental health condition triggered by experiencing or seeing a terrifying event. “Therefore, I inferred that the author has had a terrifying church experience. A plethora of people have had a negative church experience, including myself, which is why I was intrigued enough to begin reading it.
Within the first couple of pages, I understood that the books was going to be whimsical when the author states “’…I wasn’t allowed to watch the Smurfs growing up because my parents thought they were demonic’”(7). The novel is humorous. However, beneath the quirky prose and comical situations, there is a serious side to it. It is a common phenomenon for a person to question one’s fate. Reba Rily does just that in her memoir. Unlike me, Reba Riley was 29 when she turned away from religion, specifically. It is inferred that she suffered so much in the hands of the church that she developed a chronic illness. I got the sense that it was because she felt lost without her faith, resulting in her quest to find spiritual enlightenment.
This immediately resonated with me. I was sixteen when I decided to separate myself from the church. My reasons where clear. I saw the church as a controlling authority, which I consciously decided would not control me. However, like Reba, I felt lost and still feel a bit loss without faith and at the age of 48, am still seeking spiritual guidance. This must resonate with a multitude of people.
Like many people, Reba searched elsewhere for guidance. She decided to visit 30 different forms of faith before she turned 30. Being as she had a husband and a full time job, it seemed like a large task to take on (I hope this doesn’t turn out to be an exaggeration in the spirit of James Frey’s, A Million Little Pieces). Expanding on this idea, one might question one whether or not there is a reliable narrator present. It often reads like fiction. It has an impelling plot with characterization, imagery and metaphors. Then again, it would probably fall under CREATIVE non-fiction, which I believe gives the author some creative license.
I was fascinated by the author’s use of movies as metaphors. At one point, when the author visited a monk, the monk related faith to the Matrix, thus bringing a comparison that will no doubt fare well with the readers, both young and old. It is action packed and visual.
Another captivating part of the book is when she visited a Buddhist Temple. I specifically related to this section of the book because though I may be in spiritual purgatory, I, like Reba’s, am searching for spiritual peace; I find solace with meditation. Most readers will relate to this, even atheists. There is, in fac,t an atheist that is mentioned in the story, and he stated that she had given him a new insight on people who resort to faith to be satisfied with their lives. Why he thinks that? Well, I guess I will leave it up to the reader to find out.
One really good quality of the novel is its ability to keep you reading. I found myself completely emerged. She kept mentioning her illness, and I kept wanting to find out how the illness related to her sudden lapse of faith.
Anyone reading it will keep on reading to find out why.
Overall, the memoir it worth reading. First, most people will be able to relate to it. It is an easy read, one that will make it difficult for you to put down.