Zierman's portrait of marriage during depression is unflinching, and the union is further threatened by her regular, excessive drinking. She starts by pouring herself an extra glass of wine, then talks of margaritas in threes and fours with friends, and of mastering the art of driving drunk. At one point, she almost kisses another man, but even that doesn't curb her drinking. She falls further into the clutches of depression as she succumbs to the cycle of drinking and shame, hiding herself more and more from her husband and her church.
Back Toward God
It is not a neat, happy return to evangelicalism that wraps the book up. Rather, Zierman ends with a series of steps that bring her back toward God, and God back toward her. She is about to have a baby, which gets her thinking about family and her future. She looks up Chris, her old boyfriend, on Facebook, and finds him living a pretty normal life—drinking a beer in one picture, posing with his wife in a bikini, this man who had expected Addie to dress more modestly. He, too, was a mixed bag.
She goes to a good therapist. She takes slow steps back to the church, and it looks different than it had previously. She looks different. "The future will be a mix of both these things," she writes. "The devotion and the cynicism. You have to find a way for them to coexist within you. Let them destroy each other, and your fragile faith may shatter entirely."
The lessons from this book are legion, though rarely explicit, which is refreshing. Zierman is a gifted writer, one who refuses to exempt herself from the same scrutiny she directs outward. There is much for the church, in all its iterations, to glean in these pages. We need to remember, if we cannot, what it feels like to be an outsider. We need to remember, if we feel only exclusion, that community runs on vulnerability.
I do wish that Zierman addressed her drinking problem more deliberately in the book—I wonder if she is sober now, or if her problems with drinking occurred strictly during her time of severe depression. I don't mean to demonize drinking by asking these questions, but to suggest their relevance to the life of a narrator I came to like so dearly. But most of all I learned that when we light the fire within, the burning can consume us in dangerous ways.
Laura Turner is a writer in California, and a contributor to Her.meneutics. Her blog on faith and entertainment appears at Religion News Service.