‘Wrestling with God’ Celebrates Its First Year

Barbara Falconer Newhall, author of "Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith," reads from her book at the podium of the Book Passage Bookstore, Corte Madera, CA, April, 2015. Photo by Cheryl McLaughlin

Reading from WWG at the Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, California. Photo by Cheryl McLaughlin

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It’s official, “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith” has been out there for people to buy, borrow, read and talk about for a full year as of this week. Here’s what folks have been saying about it:

In the Media

A Wild and Wonderful Ride

Publishers Weekly, Starred review: “Any seeker of any faith will be blessed to read the words of this fine author and observer.”

On Amazon

Why Respect for People of Faith Matters

By John D. Caldwell, Santa Barbara, California. Five stars out of five on Amazon

The most valuable insight I gained from reading Barbara Falconer Newhall’s elegantly written book, “Wrestling with God,” is deep respect for people who advance from doubt about religion in their lives to faith; some are ordinary and some not so ordinary. Newhall defines faith as trust, but it’s not trust derived from First Principles about the origin of the universe, or Darwin’s theory of evolution, or empiricism. For her, it is listening to people talk about faith and writing about them.

Reading Newhall’s stories of some twenty believers and non-believers, ranging from a Nobel Laureate in Physics, an atheist who loves Christmas, a ball-turret gunner who had to bail out of a B-17, a Holocaust survivor, a young Mormon missionary, a progressive Muslim woman activist, to a shamanic witch and priestess, the author is explaining to us her own journey toward discovering faith after her own wrestling with issues about God. “Wrestling with God” is not a breezy read, but it is an easy read because Newhall explains hers and others’ faith lightly.

A heartening reminder of what is universal about faith and doubt

By Nancy Davis Kho, author and humorist, MidlifeMixtape.com, Five stars on Amazon

At a time when religions seem to take great pride in setting themselves against one another, “Wrestling With God” by Barbara Falconer Newhall is a powerful reminder of the universality of faith and doubt. In a series of interviews with people from various faith communities, from Mormons to Buddhists to Wiccans and atheists and beyond, Newhall coaxes them to share their thoughts on the presence of a higher power, their beliefs and those places where they still struggle to believe. In doing so, those voices are put into a warm conversation that I found informative and ultimately gratifying. Highly recommend.
It’s a Trip!

By Richard H. Wells, Five stars on Amazon

An engaging glimpse into our attempts to understand the unfathomable, told in a very personal manner by a veteran journalist, and leaving me to question, at every step, my own beliefs and behaviors. A fascinating survey.
Accessible and Inspiring
By Capricella, Five stars
This is not the type of book I normally read. Non-fiction is usually too dry to keep my attention; religion as a subject matter is too inaccessible, preachy, or scary. So I was surprised to find Wrestling With God interesting, accessible, and at times inspiring.

The author put her all into this book, an almost 20-year project. She frames the narratives well and treats her interviewees with a great deal of respect, even though at times her religious beliefs don’t align in any way. She features people with vastly different backgrounds and religions—as I felt myself particularly attached to a few interviewees, another reader will likely feel a similar connection to a different few.

The last chapter—the author’s own search for God—felt especially meaningful, with its combination of doubt, hope, and gentle reverence. I could see anyone enjoying this book.

Keep Wrestling!
By Gail Reitano, author, Gail Reitano.com, Bolinas, California. Five stars on Amazon
After reading Barbara Falconer Newhall’s wonderful book, you will never look at religious belief the same way again. “Wrestling with God” is delightfully free of the extremes that characterize so much of religious discourse these days. Instead, across twenty personal stories, these riveting interviews illustrate the mystery and variety in “faith.” Between those who found themselves given over to surrender (what William James calls religious conversion/The Varieties of Religious Experience), to those who gave up on “God” when things simply got too hard, are the far more common, questioning voices.
What soon becomes clear is how the impulse towards religious practice–what leads us to ask, Who and What is God–is as integral to us as humans as breathing. What Newhall and her subjects seem to be saying – Keep Wrestling! Highly recommended.
Wonderful stories of spiritual struggle

By Daniel D, Five stars on Amazon

I love this book. It contains the best collection of stories of real people in pursuit of meaning and purpose in their lives that I have ever read. Religion, its history and philosophy can be a tedious academic exercise. On the other hand, spiritual struggle challenges all of us and yet is unique to each individual. For many people, the term “God” with its manifold implications and interpretations is a major stumbling block. If you can get past “God”, you can open yourself to new dimensions of experience and understanding. This book is a great source of ideas and inspiration.
A Keeper

By Constant Reader, Five stars on Amazon

Whatever your doubts or beliefs, you’ll identify with at least some of the individuals in this absorbing book. Each of their stories stands alone, but the author’s quest for personal understanding holds them together and elevates them. This is a book worth picking up again and again, as any stray paragraph yields something more each time.
I enjoyed your book on many levels

By Howard C., Five stars on Amazon

I enjoyed your book on many, many levels and it sits by my bed to reread from time to time. The best part for me was your generous and open voice giving dignity to every interview and view point. Thanks to you, I tried to open my mind and find acceptance of other thinking about religion and the search for meaning.
Great book club read

By Christine Okoren, Five stars on Amazon

This book would be terrific for Book Clubs. Barbara Falconer Newhall helps tell so many beautiful stories of people seeking and wrestling with God–very hope filled. Wherever you are at in your faith journey, this will be a grace filled read.

Kind Words from Writer Colleagues

A riverflow of a book that gives voice to the reality of the modern world, which is multiphonic, skeptical, but also longing for deep meaning.
Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage and host of PBS’s Global Spirit

In Wrestling with God, Barbara Falconer Newhall . . . combines the best of gracefully practiced and written journalism with the best of a personal spiritual quest. With a persistent seeker’s humbleness, she asks good questions of thoughtful people from an astonishing range of backgrounds . . . The result is both an encyclopedia of the ways that twenty-first-century Americans make sense of the universe and their place in it as well as a personal memoir of Newhall’s own, continuing, spiritual journey. — Kay Campbell, religion writer, formerly with the Huntsville Times, Alabama Media Group

How to Get Your Copy of ‘Wrestling with God’

“Wrestling with God” is published by Patheos Press as both an ebook and a paperback. It’s available wherever books are sold. A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland has it in stock., and any bookstore, chain or independent, can order it for you. You can also go online to order it from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, BooksAMillion.com and Indiebound.com.

For those of you looking for a book for inspiration during Lent, WWG is a great choice, imo. I also imagine that it would be a nice book to take along on vacation or business trip; its self-contained chapters let you read it in bits and pieces.

The cover of Barbara Falconer Newhall's 2015 interfaith religion book "Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith" shows two red chairs opposing one another. Design by Michelle Lenger.

Cover design by Michelle Lenger of Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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