Sometimes it’s the truth that makes fiction so powerful.
That’s the case with Sharon Garlough Brown’s book, “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” ($18, IVP Books).
“I longed for my characters to be windows and mirrors,” Brown said from her home in Michigan. “It is often easier to see true things about somebody else.”
Readers have a lot of truth to see in the four strangers that Brown introduces in the pages of her novel. The four women – Hannah, Meg, Mara and Charissa – meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin to learn the value of community and of spiritual practices like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen.
Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.
Their stories and their true-to-life questions unfold as they learn that a spiritual journey isn’t always an easy walk.
“Reading this could evoke some very deep things,” said Brown, sounding a lot like the retreat facilitator in her book: Walking the path toward freedom and deep transformation takes courage. It’s not easy. It’s not linear. …But don’t be afraid of the mess.
Brown, who has a master’s of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a pastor and spiritual director with the Evangelical Covenant Church, paints faith as a relationship that grows and stumbles and strengthens, as something more than merely a subplot to life.
And you’ll find a bit of her in each of the main characters, especially Hannah.
Brown had been wearing herself out in service to God and to others since college, and she rarely took time to enjoy and rest in God’s love for her.
“We first moved to Grand Rapids for my husband’s job,” she said. “I wasn’t on staff at a church. I didn’t have an office. I didn’t have a title.”
That season lasted three years, and it helped her untangle her identity from what she did for God and tie it more securely to how God cares about her and about all of us – the single line of truth that makes this work of fiction so meaningful. So authentic. So worth reading.
Sharon Garlough Brown
To learn more
“My hope is that this book will help readers go deeper into a life with God and deeper into a life of community,” Sharon Garlough Brown said, which is why she offers a free 80-page companion guide to “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” at www.sensibleshoesclub.com. The guide essentially serves as a 12-week devotional and spiritual formation primer.
About the Simply Faithful book club
Joining the Simply Faithful book club is easy. Just pick up a copy of “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” and participate in the community conversation. Talk with friends. Read it at church. Share your comments on social media. Connect with us.
Then, on Monday, Aug. 25, log on to the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and meet the author, Sharon Garlough Brown. She’ll start answering questions at 8 p.m. EDT.