The Good, the Bad and the Everything – Review of Wild in the Hollow

wildhollow Book InformationWild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home
Author: Amber C. Haines
Publisher: Revell (August 2015, $16.99 hardcover, $9.72 digital)

I’ve been curious about this book ever since I heard about it. I’ve read Amber C. Haines’ blog off and on from back when her site was just called The RunaMuck. Some of the content I enjoyed back then looks like it’s been pruned away, but there are still good new blog pieces to be had there from time to time.

One of the things I enjoy most about Haines’ writing is that she tends to be very real with her readers. If you’ve read her blog for any length of time, you know she’s not perfect and doesn’t pretend to be. I suspect that we might differ in the particulars of our theology, but she captures the wonders of God’s grace in imagery that rekindles my joy in Him.

In Wild in the Hollow, Haines talks about her life and her faith journey. At its best moments, she captures memories using evocative language that makes you want to lean in and read more. She comes from what I consider the Ann Voskamp school of writing – meaning that the author will use 10 or 20 words when 4 would do quite nicely. However, she’s one of the best of these sorts of writers because instead of drowning the reader with her verbose prose, she paints pictures.

When I started the book, I could almost see the author’s childhood home in Alabama and feel the soil under my feet. I could imagine the people who meant the most to her. And as the story progressed and she began to talk of the longing she felt to be close to God, I could almost feel the yearning. And that is powerful stuff.

However, just as words can be used to paint a picture, they can also be used to obfuscate. And I have to say that I felt pushed away by this book almost as much as I felt welcomed into it. Whenever Haines got to the most painful parts of her journey, I almost felt as though she used her words to gloss over these parts of the story and blur the outlines a bit. In a way, her decision makes sense because the low points of her life aren’t the focal point of the story; the redemption is. However, this style of narration also serves to make the reader feel distanced from the narrator.

As a result, I had periods where I couldn’t tear myself away from this book and times when I wasn’t sure I felt like picking it back up. Parts of the middle in particular all seemed to run together in one long stream of consciousness for me, and the book tends to have an unfinished feeling about it. However, toward the end, as the author summed up her rebellion and her family’s journey back to the church, I found myself drawn in again. Haines has good things to say about the church universal, and how God and His kingdom endure. Good and humble reminders in a time where it seems that we have so many divisions both inside and outside of churches.

There’s a rough, unfinished quality to this book that at its best points lends authenticity to Haines’ memoir and at others, makes it hard to stay focused on reading. Readers will likely find some good things here that resonate with them, but as a whole, the book feels a bit uneven. Rating: 3 stars
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Many thanks to Revell for providing me with a free copy of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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