Late in 2006, right before election day, I wrote about how I was receiving get-out-the-vote robocalls from none other than Laura Bush and Rick Perry, and I got a comment from Jennifer F., a fellow Texan. Then it turned out that she was from Austin too, and then it turned out that we were practically neighbors.
Shortly afterward we met up at a tea shop, having read through each other's blog archives (which were much less extensive in those days), and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, eight years later, Jennifer Fulwiler's memoir, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It, is finally in print and on shelves, and it was a pleasure to take that conversion journey with her again, hearing familiar anecdotes told in fresh ways and hearing backstory for the first time. Her blog, first titled The Reluctant Atheist, and then Et Tu Jen (which is now the popular Conversion Diary), was pivotal in her conversion, and I found it fascinating to read the blog from the other side, as it were, and see how conversations I remembered as a reader played out as part of Jen's daily life. (An example: Jen's comments on my post about suffering, written the day before we met, mirror her thoughts in Chapter 25.) Jen is a funny, honest writer, and the book is so readable and well-paced that I finished it in one sitting as the afternoon turned to evening and the living room grew so dark that I could barely see the last words.
I'm delighted to say that Jen's husband Joe features prominently in the book, because Joe is a fantastic character in real life, but let me say how disappointed I was that my favorite Joe anecdote, the one that involved the guy in the clown suit at a bar telling him, "I didn't plan on having a throwdown tonight, but if you start something I've got your back," didn't make it through the editing process.
Just last week I met a lady who'd just entered the Church on Easter, who was telling me about her conversion story, and my immediate thought was, "I need to lend her Jen's book." I think that many people working their way through that same process of mental and spiritual realignment will start finding friends and mentors recommending this memoir for encouragement and companionship, and I think that her fellow seekers will find a good friend and a understanding guide in Jen.
Full disclosure: I make a brief cameo in the book, and since this is the first time my hair has been (justly) immortalized in print, I got it together with the book for a photo.