Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Published by Thomas Nelson
Review copy provided by the publisher
From the publisher:
Carolyn Weber arrives at Oxford a feminist from a loving but broken family, suspicious of men and intellectually hostile to all things religious. As she grapples with her God-shaped void alongside the friends, classmates, and professors she meets, she tackles big questions in search of Truth, love, and a life that matters.
From issues of fatherhood, feminism, doubt, doctrine, and love, Weber explores the intricacies of coming to faith with an aching honesty and insight echoing that of the poets and writers she studied. Rich with illustration and literary references, Surprised by Oxford is at once gritty and lyrical; both humorous and spiritually perceptive. This savvy, credible account of Christian conversion and its after-effects follows the calendar year and events of the school year as it entertains, informs, and promises to engage even the most skeptical and unlikely reader.
I have to say, I liked this book SO much more than I was expecting I would. This was an unsolicited review copy that I never planned on reading, but I was craving nonfiction one day and decided to try it. I figured I’d get 50 pages in and give up. 100 pages later, I was swept into Weber’s story and unable to stop reading.
What I loved about this book so much, I think, is that Carolyn’s path to Jesus was a lot like my own. I, too, was extremely skeptical at first. I didn’t believe that a person could be both feminist and Christian, both intellectual and spiritual. And, like Carolyn, one day for me things just clicked and I couldn’t imagine NOT believing in the Truth that is Jesus Christ. I saw so much of myself in Carolyn and that is definitely what held me captivated as I read this memoir. I couldn’t put it down because it resonated so strongly with my own experiences.
Surprised by Oxford, unfortunately, is not without its faults. At 480 pages, I found the book to be a bit too long, and while the writing is beautiful, for a memoir it felt a bit pretentious to me. Almost as if Weber was trying too hard to come up with lyrical phrases, it came off as a little much. Also, I found that the conversations Weber recalled were incredibly specific – to the point that it wasn’t quite believable that she would remember SO much about these interactions she had all those years ago. However, while these little things bugged me a bit, they didn’t bother me enough to take much away from my overall enjoyment of this memoir.
This come-to-Jesus memoir so mirrored my own experiences that I practically fell in love with the book. If you like this sort of thing, Surprised by Oxford is not to be missed.