Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look

( 19 )

Overview

Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else--anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time--in the place she least expected it.

...

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Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look

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Overview

Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else--anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time--in the place she least expected it.

Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/11/2014
Canadian blogger and journalist Wierenga addresses eating disorders and parental illness in this meandering, uneven memoir. Maddeningly, the book is not organized chronologically—darts from 2007, to 1998, to the early 1980s and back again. The patient reader who is willing to piece things together will learn that Wierenga grew up in a Christian family and developed an eating disorder at age 9; that her maternal grandmother committed suicide and her mother developed brain cancer; and that after marrying her late-adolescent love, Trenton, Wierenga eventually moved home to care for her mother. There are some well-written scenes: descriptions of her sexually awkward wedding night, as well as tending to her sick mother. But Wierenga has an unfortunate taste for slightly off-key imagery coupled with breathless sentence structure: "it all caught in the back of my throat, all the love songs and all the loneliness, it caught like a big wad of gum." At the end of the book, the reader will have traveled to a lot of places, but will not really know what the journey has added up to. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801016561
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 171,666
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, columnist, artist, author, and blogger at www.emilywierenga.com. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Prodigal Magazine, A Deeper Story, Christianity Today, Dayspring's (in)courage, and Focus on the Family. She speaks regularly about her journey with anorexia. She lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband, Trenton, and their two sons.
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Read an Excerpt

Atlas Girl

Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look


By Emily T. Wierenga

Baker Books

Copyright © 2014 Emily T. Wierenga
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8010-1656-1



CHAPTER 1

Mum

Canada: Blyth, Ontario


July 2007


Behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begins.

Mitch Albom


The smell of my hands reminds me of Africa.

Of mangoes mashed, of Mum feeding me, and my brother too. And now I'm feeding her, and she doesn't open her mouth when I ask her to.

The sunrise sky is pretty, like Mum's pink silk scarf, the one hanging in her closet, and the windows are dirty; maybe I'll clean them today. Mum thinks today is Sunday—funny, because yesterday was Sunday too, she thought—"And there's church and I will need to take my blue purse with my Bible and where are my glasses?"

This is what she would normally say, but suddenly she can't speak. Kind of like me until age four because we moved so much, and Dad says I just watched people. Just stood at the fence in Congo and watched our neighbors.

Mum is trying to ask me something, but her mouth won't work. I busy myself with the spoon and the mashed fruit. I might as well be buying baby food for the way Mum can't chew. I don't have children of my own and this is something Trent, my husband, wants. "Maybe one day," I tell him.

I didn't used to want children at all, and now I'm bathing Mum, who's had brain cancer for five years, and I'm changing her and cutting her toenails and my womb is too full of grief and wonder to make room for a baby.

Funny how the two go together, grief and wonder, kind of like when Jesus died and his murderers realized he was God even as the sky tore.

The sky is bleeding red, and in a month it will blaze cerulean with late August heat. Combines whirring and the air thick with the meaty smell of harvest.

And Mum's still fumbling for words, and when she does talk she has a British accent, but now she has nothing and I wish, I wish she knew how much I loved her.

"Bigger," Mum says finally, and I know she's trying to say, "I love you bigger."

"I love you biggest," I tell her, wiping drool and mango from her chin with a cloth. It's not supposed to be this way.

I'm helping her stand now, and she's light. She hasn't been this small since Africa, where she knit afghans with local women while Dad taught blind men how to plant and Keith and I played in the mud, him in his cloth diaper and me in my underwear.

I read somewhere that stress can trigger brain tumors. Perhaps Mum's grew when she found Nanny in the bathtub, dead. Or maybe this tumor is my fault. Maybe it's from when I got anorexia, Mum holding me at night when she thought I was asleep, and her crying. Or maybe it's from all of those pots and pans flying across the room when she and I would fight. Or maybe it's from when I left the house at eighteen and didn't look back.

Mum's diaper is poking out of her stretchy pants, the ones she always wears because they're the easiest to pull up if she's unconscious, and there's someone at the door and I'm helping her across the floor toward her blue recliner.

And Mum is asleep in her chair even before I answer the door.

CHAPTER 2

Leaving Home

Canada: Edmonton, Alberta


September 1 998


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao Tzu


Mum had said to sit close to the bus driver, so I sat as far away as possible.

And now a Chippewa man in a red bandana with stubbly cheeks was snoring on my shoulder.

He smelled like communion wine, the kind my father served in glass cups that we slid, empty, into the pew's tiny cup holders.

He smelled like beer, like the late August summer when I was entering puberty, cleaning up the Corn Fest fairgrounds in my Sunday dress with my family. The beer cans all clanging like empty songs against each other in their black garbage bags. It was what good Christians did, cleaning up after sinners' parties and marching in pro-life rallies, and it was always us versus them. And all I ever wanted was to be them.

But always, we were taught to be kind to them, so I let this man sleep on my shoulder in the Greyhound bus headed west while I tucked up my legs and tried to shrink inside my eighteen-year-old frame.

I tried to close my eyes against the cold of the window but it had been two days since I'd hugged my younger brother, Keith, and my sisters, Allison and Meredith; since Mum—whose name is Yvonne, which means beautiful girl—had held me to her soft, clean, cotton shirt and her arms had said all of the words she'd never been able to voice. The Reverend Ernest Dow, or Dad, had loaded my cardboard boxes full of Value Village clothes onto the bus and kissed me on the cheek and smiled in a way that apologized. I was the eldest, and I was the first to leave. But then again, I'd left long before getting on that bus.

I'd slid my guitar, then, beside the cardboard boxes, its black case covered in hippie flower stickers and the address for the Greyhound depot in Edmonton, forty hours away.

And we still weren't there yet, and I hoped there would be mountains.

I should know, I thought. I should know whether or not there will be mountains.

My parents had raised us to believe in God, to believe in music, and to believe in travel.

We'd visited Edmonton as children, piled into our blue Plymouth Voyager, and we'd driven from Ontario to California, no air conditioning, living off crusty bun sandwiches and tenting every night.

And there was Disneyland and the ocean and me nearly drowning because I was all ribs, my body too tired to care. And we'd traveled home through Canada, through Edmonton, but all I remembered was the mall, West Edmonton Mall, and how it had hurt me to walk its miles, thin as I was.

I was hospitalized soon after that trip. The submarine sandwiches hadn't been enough to fill the cracks. But oh, how my parents taught us to love the open road. We caught the bug young, and here I was, and I couldn't remember where the Rockies began and ended.

I scratched at the night as though it were frost on my window, but all I could see were the bright yellow lines on the highway, like dashes in a sentence, like long pauses that never ended. The last sign had said Lloydminster, a town that stapled Saskatchewan and Alberta together.

And for some reason I always said a prayer for her when it was dark. Mum.

Not really during the day, but always when it was night and maybe because she was like a candle. We didn't talk much and we were opposite in temperament and so we yelled a lot, and yet I missed the way she smelled of lavender and would hold me when a boy dumped me or when Dad wouldn't listen to me.

The man with the alcoholic breath was whimpering in his sleep and I felt sorry for him, and annoyed, and I had a crick in my neck. No one seemed to notice this blonde girl with the man asleep on her shoulder, but that was the way I wanted it. No one seeing me, all hunched over with my Margaret Atwood novel and my Walkman.

I was listening to Journey. "Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world ... she took a midnight train going anywhere ..."

I closed my eyes against the jagged yellow of the road and buried my nose against my cardigan. It smelled of fuzzy peach perfume. Of the mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to the 1996 Olympic Games; of the twenty-one-year-old boy who had given me my sweet sixteen kiss.

It smelled like home and my room covered in Michael W Smith and DC Talk posters and the floral quilt with Cuddles, my bear. And I didn't remember Dad ever entering that room. Mum sometimes slid books under the door, books on sex and why not to have it before marriage, and sometimes my sisters would come in and watch me do my makeup.

Ever since the anorexia—me starving myself from age nine to thirteen and ending up in a hospital where my hair fell out and my nails curled under—my sisters had been a bit scared of me and I didn't blame them. Mum didn't let them visit me very often because I played secular music from the radio, stuff like Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, stuff that made the insides of my legs ache a little.

I twisted the silver purity ring on my ring finger and it wasn't coming off, not until my wedding day, and it was the one thing my parents and I agreed on.

But I would have pulled the Kleenex from my bra, and the bra from my body, for Seth Jones. For the scratchy way he said my name and the way his brown hair hung over his eyes, but I hadn't.

And Mum had knocked on my bedroom door that day, roses in her arms, and she'd sat on my bed and held me, the day Seth had dumped me in the school courtyard. The day he'd said I was too nice. Which really just meant I wouldn't get undressed for him.

But then Mum had given me the bouquet of roses and my fingers had bled from the thorns. And I'd known I wasn't too nice, just too afraid of sin, and sometimes it doesn't matter what kind of fear, so long as it steers you right.

I didn't know why I was waiting except that sex was a big deal, even bigger than drinking, and it was only allowed after marriage.

Not that marriage meant much with my dad sleeping on the couch after staying up late on the computer and Mum getting jealous over the ladies Dad talked to after church in his long minister's robe, his face full of laughter, a sight we rarely saw at home.

"Edmonton," the driver's weary voice crackled over the speaker, and the man on my shoulder was sitting up now, rubbing his eyes and yawning. As though he did that kind of thing all the time, as though we were lovers or friends, and I shrugged.

Stretched my legs. Tugged my green cardigan close, pulled the photos of my roommates from my cloth purse. Alex de Groot, short with dark curls and more of a smirk than a smile, and Meg Hendriks, tall and Dutch and blonde. They would both be waiting for me, Alex had told me in an email.

The bus was stopping and the Chippewa man inched out of his seat.

And I stood up, and my heart fell out of my chest and I couldn't breathe.

For all of my eighteen years of not being able to connect with him, I missed him. My father.

I missed knowing he was there. That he could fix anything I asked him to.

That when he was at the wheel, I could just fall asleep in the backseat because Dad would get us wherever we needed to go.

That if I had a math problem I couldn't figure out, he would spend hours at the kitchen table showing me over and over how to do it.

And if there was a thunderstorm or a scary dream he would sit outside my room until I fell asleep, reading his book there on the floor by the light of the bathroom. Like a shepherd.

Dad was the one to teach us piano and the recorder. He played guitar but he knew the chords on a piano and we all sang and played instruments. There was a lot of music in our house.

I gripped the seat in front of me, braced against this sudden wave of homesickness.

We were stepping off the bus now and I saw my roommates standing there and they looked just like they did in the photo.

I wiped my eyes. Cleared my throat. And walked toward them.

* * *

We were sheep, waiting to be corralled, and there were forty of us.

Most of us were eighteen years old and fresh from home, our hair oiled and our faces squeaky clean and Scripture tucked under our arms because this was Bible school.

Mount Carmel Bible School. A square brick building on a plot of grass in the heart of Capilano, Edmonton, just blocks from the townhouse I shared with Alex and Meg who listened to the Canadian indie band Sloan, and lounged in the living room talking for hours, and cooked delicious suppers.

And there were no mountains.

"Gosh, this is lame," Alex said now, doing her smirk, and I loved her already. Loved her way of reading comic books in the bathroom and walking around the house in her bra and underwear like she didn't have a care.

We all huddled, silently checking each other out in the entrance of the school until a man with a long face and glasses ran in like he'd forgotten something and saw us.

"Come in!" He gestured. "No need to be shy! We're meeting in the conference room."

So we filed in, the sheep that we were, and I didn't see him.

The boy I would one day marry.

The boy who would hold me for nights on end while I shook from anorexia and insomnia.

The boy who would make my heart beat a thousand times faster for the way he smiles. The boy who would make me laugh, every day, for the rest of my life.

Maybe I didn't see him because I'd promised myself I wouldn't marry someone from Bible college (or "bridal college") because it was too cliché.

But I saw his friend.

A tall boy with a Greek nose and olive skin who caught my eye and winked, and I forced myself to turn away because a man up front was calling for our attention. His name was Victor Rendusso. He stood beside the guy with the long face and glasses, whose name we'd later learn was Darb Kelly—and Victor looked like a sergeant with his clipped moustache.

"Welcome to Mount Carmel, class of 1999," Victor said. "You may take your seats and we'll start with a few songs." And we did. We sang some church songs with a woman on the piano in steel-iron curls and it felt like summer camp.

"See any cuties?" Alex leaned in and I shook my head.

"Not really. Maybe that guy." I nodded my head at the Greek, across the aisle. "But he's probably a player. You?"

Her eyes went big. "Oh yes. To our right. The brown curls. He's mine."

His name was Patrick Stolte and he wouldn't be hers. She would go on one date with him, and end up marrying another boy named Lane Dougan, who was also there, who also had curls. A boy who was best friends with my future husband, Trenton Wierenga.

I wouldn't notice Trenton until our housewarming party one week later, the one Alex and Meg would throw and I would attend because it was in our house and I couldn't hide out in my room doing homework forever.

So I tiptoed around that night saying hi to everyone and pouring myself soda while the others drank beer and coolers and the Greek boy fell drunk down the stairs.

He'd already asked me to save myself for him—me, and a couple of other girls—because he'd promised some guy he wouldn't date for six months as a dare and so he was getting all of the girls he was interested in to promise the same. And we fell for it, for him and his wink—that is, until he fell down drunk, and then I saw him.

Trenton. The boy from the farm, the army-boy who got down and did a break-dance move in the middle of the living room floor. As I watched him dancing on the floor, it all caught in the back of my throat, all of those love songs and the loneliness, it caught like a big wad of gum. He was tall and strong with a dark brown crew cut and large hazel eyes.

It would be years until we finally got married. And we'd break up in between.

But there was something about the shy way in which he tucked his head as he danced, the quiet way he surrendered to the applause, and the look he gave me across the room, the look that said he truly saw me.


Something about that made me climb the stairs to my room and sit in the dark with my homework piled around me and weep.

For the way I missed home. For the way I had always missed home, even when I lived there.

And would Dad notice I was gone?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Atlas Girl by Emily T. Wierenga. Copyright © 2014 Emily T. Wierenga. Excerpted by permission of Baker Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

1. Mum Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 15,
2. Leaving Home Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, 18,
3. Keith Africa: Brazzaville, Congo, 26,
4. The Beach Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 34,
5. Finding Jesus Canada: Edmonton and Neerlandia, Alberta, 45,
6. Losing Faith Canada: Vancouver, British Columbia, 52,
7. Apology Central America: Ensanada, Mexico, 58,
8. Nanny Canada: Edmonton, Alberta; Echo Bay, Ontario, 64,
9. Forgiveness Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 72,
10. Breakup Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, 80,
11. Prophecy Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, 86,
12. Engaged Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 94,
13. Training Holland: Debron, 100,
14. Arabic The Middle East: Beirut, Lebanon, 106,
15. Relapse The Middle East: Lebanon; Jordan, 110,
16. Washing Feet Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 118,
17. The Ring Canada: Blyth, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta, 126,
18. The Wedding Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 132,
19. Honeymoon Canada: The Maritimes, 135,
20. A House Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 142,
21. Losing Mum Canada: Cap-Lumière, New Brunswick; London, Ontario, 149,
22. Losing Emily Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, 154,
23. The Choice Canada: Edmonton, Alberta, 161,
24. Growth Asia: Korea; Thailand; Japan; China, 168,
25. I'll Love You Forever Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 179,
26. Trenton Canada: Toronto, Ontario, 184,
27. Sundays Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 188,
28. Shooting Stars Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 193,
29. Sisters Australia: Sydney, 197,
30. Miracle Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 204,
31. Wanting a Baby Canada: Ottawa, Ontario, 210,
32. Conception USA: New York City; Dominican Republic: Bonao, 219,
33. Better Is One Day Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 225,
34. Writer's Workshop Italy: Lake Como, 232,
35. Giving Birth Canada: Stratford, Ontario, 239,
36. Healing Canada: Blyth, Ontario, 247,
37. Moving Canada: Neerlandia, Alberta, 252,
38. Tithing Mexico: Cancun, 259,
39. Laughter Canada: Jasper and Canmore, Alberta, 263,
40. See How Much I Love You Canada: Neerlandia, Alberta, 268,
Epilogue, 271,
Time Line, 273,
Acknowledgments, 277,
Discussion Guide, 279,

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2014

    I¿ve often wondered if my complicated relationship with food isn

    I’ve often wondered if my complicated relationship with food isn’t directly related to that kind of offhand, semi-snide comment from my mother. Mom’s fears about me took root and I responded in a strange and opposite way. I think maybe it was the only form of rebellion I could muster, because I was a very, VERY good girl while I lived in their home.

    But once that baby was here — and another one less than two years later, and another one just 2.5 years after that? Well, let’s just say, something in me — both physiological and psychological — shifted, and I began piling on the pounds.

    Eventually, my mom seemed to find peace with the ‘real me,’ and now, in her dementing years, she cannot stop telling me how wonderful I look, what a fine person I am, how proud she is of me.

    And how jealous she is of me, too.

    That last one has been a stunner for me, a slice of real-life cognitive dissonance that I haven’t yet fully internalized. We’ve been home for 45 years now — and I’m still finding my way.

    Because coming home is hard to do. And finding home can take a lifetime. Emily Wierenga has written a brand-new memoir, releasing today, called, “Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look.” It’s a rich memoir, laced with poignant story-telling and honest reflection. She, too, traveled far to find out that home was right where she left it.

    I encourage you to read this intriguing story, to reflect with Emily as she discovers that her parents, whom she never felt loved her very well, truly do love her, with all their hearts.

    Described as a ‘travel memoir, this book is actually a beautiful story of two marriages, her own and her parents’. And the revelation that sang to me was this one: when her mom became so very ill that her father became a primary caregiver, Emily’s parents found one another in ways both new and beautiful.

    Emily has said elsewhere that her parents’ changing marriage became the beautiful one that it now is because her sometimes acid-tongued mom began to submit herself to her husband’s caring leadership. But as I read it, it seemed so much more than that. I saw a couple blossoming into newness of love because they each submitted to the other, in the process discovering each other all over again.

    Emily and Trenton go through a long and often difficult process of rediscovery as well. And there, too, what Emily describes is a lovely journey for each of them, as they both learn to love and submit, love and submit.

    It’s a beautiful book, one I recommend to you for it’s lyrical prose and it’s heartfelt commitment to truth telling. I received an advanced reader’s copy of “Atlas Girl,” and am grateful to have read it and more than happy to review it. Reading it prompts a lot of personal reflection on the meaning of home and what it means to find home after a long season of wandering. I encourage you to read it yourself. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 11, 2014

    Can I rate it six stars out of five? I loved this memoir. I've

    Can I rate it six stars out of five?

    I loved this memoir. I've never read a memoir before so I wasn't exactly certain what to expect. I was so
    pleasantly surprised, The power and passion behind Emily T. Wierenga's prodigal story is profound and
    absolutely amazing. Her raw honesty touched my heart in so many ways. It was a book of aching tears,
    anger, sweet smiles and quiet reflection - and I felt every one of those on every single page!

    What I loved most about Emily's book was her writing. Her brutally honest assessment bled into each
    chapter with each word she chose. It's poetic flavour and heart-gripping prose left me speechless at
    times. In her own words, Emily says: "That's life and faith too. Messy, blurred and beautiful." And her
    words truly were beautiful and open and authentic as she laid bare her heart and her life with her
    readers. 

    The next thing I loved about her book was the actual story. Her life has been colourful and vibrant at
    times and seared with pain and loss at others. Her journey closer to the heart of God demonstrated on
    each page so beautifully depicts the brokenness and redemption tension we all live in.  The story of her
    childhood eating disorder and family angst married into her mother's great loss physically and emotionally was poignant and bittersweet. Yet with the sweetest of endings that only God could author. 




    One last thing I loved about the book were the quotes. Each chapter began with a quote. I wrote many
    of them down in my journal alongside some new ones I love too by Emily.

    The only downfall I encountered in reading the book was the bouncing timeline. Each chapter tells a
    story starting with the location and the date. This was helpful at first. But the chapters do not tell a linear
    story. And soon I began turning back and forth to discover if this next segment happened before or after
    that segment. However, in hindsight I discovered a couple of things. First, that the way and format she
    tells her story is truly compelling and interactive - indicative of how our lives are so interwoven through
    people and time. After awhile I choose to ignore the dates and just fall into the story as Emily chose to
    unfold it. This helped greatly. Secondly, (and I didn't find this till I turned the last page) there is a proper,
    consecutive timeline printed on the last pages. A great thing to include - only wished I'd seen it earlier.

    Overall, I've been so profoundly impacted by Emily's story and her faith in love and in His love. I received
    my copy of her book for free but have already ordered a few copies to use for friends and family that I
    know will love her story.  

    Without any hesitation I recommend this book to anyone. Especially those who have wandered aimlessly
    in their journey with God. Whether you had (or have) an eating disorder, a debilitating illness in your
    family or a twisted and convoluted view of religion doesn't matter. This book goes so much deeper than
    the events into the heart of what God truly wants for us. Emily quotes many times throughout her book
    the whisper from God that I'm certain changed her life. 

    Watch Me take care of you.

    And who of us doesn't want to see the Hand of God in our lives?

    Thank you to Emily Wierenga and to Nuts About Books Blogger program and Baker Books for the
    opportunity to review this amazing book. I received the book free of charge in exchange for my honest
    review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 31, 2014

    5 * stars out of 5 A Memoir As followers of my book reviews

    5 * stars out of 5
    A Memoir




    As followers of my book reviews have likely noticed, and as I have probably mentioned true stories and memoirs are not something I review very often. I think it might be because they employ a style of writing that seems slightly disjointed to me. Atlas Girl, by Emily T. Wierenga is an exception. I am not sure what I can say, but that I loved it, I was deeply immersed in the story and I feel like I lived it with her. She seemed very transparent as she wrote not only about her mother having brain cancer, but about her eating disorder (childhood anorexia) about living in Uganda and so on. I was thrilled to find she and her family live in Alberta (as do I) and that she is on Pinterest. 
    I did not realize until I noticed that her style of writing was slightly familiar, that I had read her novel, A Promise in Pieces, which I reviewed. I enjoyed both, and will be looking for the next Emily Wierenga memoir or novel eagerly.
    I received this book free from Emily Davies-Robinson At Nuts About Novels and Baker
    Books in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions stated are my own. 

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  • Posted July 28, 2014

    Atlas Girl is a beautifully written, spell binding book about tr

    Atlas Girl is a beautifully written, spell binding book about travel, and cancer, and about anorexia... But mostly it's about relationships. Emily Wierenga tells the story of the major relationships in her life- her parents, her husband, and her God. She uses her story to remind us all that we need to be seen, we need to be accepted, and we need to be loved. She promises that when all others fail, God is there. While the memoir is painful at times it is always full of hope. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Posted July 18, 2014

    MY THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK Emily Wierenga left her home looking f

    MY THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK

    Emily Wierenga left her home looking for a like that she wanted, or thought she wanted. Her travels took her to may different places in the world. In searching for the life Emily thought she wanted, she gives vivid details of her new life. She spent time in Brazzaville, Congo, and this was interesting to read about because I have heard a lot about the Congo. She also spent time in Japan, China, the Middle East, but she still couldn’t find what she was really looking for. It wasn’t until she

    Emily Wierenga tells her story, a very difficult story with a lot of raw emotions as she so vividly tells her story. She goes through a lot of heartaches and difficulties as she searches for what she is looking for in life. This is not an easy book to read because are Emily pours her heart out and tell everything in this book. I love the way Emily is reaching out to everyone, telling her story in a way that it can help others. This is a great book for everyone to read, but especially the younger generation. Reading Atlas Girl could help you in making the right choices in your life. I highly recommend this book to everyone!!

    I received this book from Blogging for Books to read and review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 55.

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  • Posted July 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Poignant and brutally honest, Emily tells a story of starving fo

    Poignant and brutally honest, Emily tells a story of starving for food, starving for love, and starving for family.  Raised as the child of missionaries, Emily has an exotic upbringing from living in foreign countries.  Searching for her own meaning, Emily also travels once out of her parents' house.  We learn of a home-schooled girl's college experiences and her boyfriends.  We also discover how she came to love her husband.  The pain of not being able to conceive and dealing with a mother who has cancer does not make this book an easy read.  However, there is a happy ending.  Since this book is written by a Christian, there are religious undertones.  However, they are not in every chapter and are not too in-your-face.  Before each chapter, there is a motivational quote, which is nice.  At the end of the book, there are discussion questions for a book group.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    We¿re all broken. We¿re all on a journey, searching for answers

    We’re all broken. We’re all on a journey, searching for answers to the hard questions. And on that journey, many glorify disillusionment, cynicism, the losing of faith.

    But others, like Emily press through the darkness and allow God to open them to life on the other side of brokenness.

    Emily is an artist, drawing your heart and soul into her life story. While you are tempted to linger in the beauty of the words she paints on each page, you can’t help but be swept into the heartache and the healing which is her life.

    You may not have suffered from anorexia, run away from your family and faith, traveled the globe, or known the agonies of cancer ravaging your mother’s brain, but along with every human soul you do know confusion, sorrow, and the question of your worth. If you’re looking for hope, for faith that rests on a Solid Rock, for the courage to press on toward home, you can’t afford to miss the exquisite blessings of Atlas Girl. (Review by Jennifer Ebenhack)

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  • Posted July 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Emily T. Wierenga in her new book, ¿Atlas Girl¿ published by Bak

    Emily T. Wierenga in her new book, “Atlas Girl” published by Baker Books gives us  Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look.




    From the back cover:   Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning.




    Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across three continents in buses, cars, and planes, across mountains and over deep blue seas.




    What she hadn’t realized was that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.




    Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a deeply personal story of the yearning we all share to be truly known, entirely forgiven, and utterly loved.




    The expression is the grass is greener on the other side.  Ms. Wierenga seems to have believed that and the first chance she had to bolt from home she did, going off in search of what she believed was missing from her home life.  This is her story, her memoir, captured in all the gritty detail.  What she was feeling, what she saw, how it affected her.  This is truth and emotion splashed out on to the pages for us to read and reflect on them.  “Atlas Girl” is quite a story.  Stories like this do not come along too often and I appreciate that Ms. Wierenga has given us her story to read and enjoy.  She has done an outstanding job!  There is a lot in this book, much to think about and it just interesting and exciting as well.




    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Books.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • Posted July 8, 2014

    I don't usually read memoirs. Nonfiction is not my thing, althou

    I don't usually read memoirs. Nonfiction is not my thing, although lately I have been trying to read more of it. But something about this book inspired me to pick it up, and I'm so glad I did. It was so touching, real, and inspiring, and I am so glad I read it.

    It did take a while for me to get into it, as I usually find nonfiction books to drag a little. But once I got into it, I could not put it down. The writing was so honest, and deep. Emily chose to share such a huge part of herself with this book, and it shows. It could not have been easy to share some of the things she did with complete strangers, but they made the story come to life.

    Although this story is about her travels, it is about so, so much more: it is about life, and family, and finding God, and turning away from God, and coming back to God. It's about discovering herself, finding her husband, loving her mother. She shared about the experiences that shaped her, such as her anorexia and her mother's cancer. All of these things came together to create such a powerful, poignant story. 

    I will say, the timeline had me a bit confused, as it flips back and forth. While the date is always at the beginning of each chapter, I would forget what had happened when, although nothing that really deterred my reading experience.

    This book was so powerful, and one of the most inspiring books I think I have ever read. And I don't say that lightly. For anyone who struggles--with identity, with God, with family--this is the book for you. (And even if you think you don't struggle with anything...this is the book for you.)

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    Atlas Girl By: Emily T. Wierenga You ever wonder where God is i

    Atlas Girl
    By: Emily T. Wierenga

    You ever wonder where God is in a time where you feel He is no where? Well Emily is doing just that in her life she is searching for God in her own way. She travels all over Central America, United States, Asia, Middle East, Australia and Canada. She finds it where she least expects it. A story of trying to find love and forgiveness. A point in her life she almost dies. Emily went through a lot from the beginning of her life even into adult hood. My heart went out to her from her Nanny's death and then her mom having cancer.. She has been through a lot in her life. Think she just needs to find what her purpose in life is. Will Emily find her place in life? I really liked the story. Liked Emily's character. Was a book I needed to keep the tissues by be. If you like memoirs you will like this story.
    I was given this book by the publisher for my own honest review.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    I really enjoyed this memoir, it is so beautifully written. Emil

    I really enjoyed this memoir, it is so beautifully written. Emily bares her heart and soul within the pages of this book.

    This book does jump back and forth a lot between years but each chapter is clearly labeled with the year so I easily make the switch in my brain so I didn’t become lost.

    Will this book appeal to everyone? Probably not. But if you are someone who has tried to find your belonging by running away from home, or your family, or even God, then this is a book I believe you will connect with and will touch your heart.

    I love reading how God draws His children to Himself. My heart broke as I read about Emily’s mom suffering with cancer and Emily’s tender care of her.

    If this book sounds interesting to you I enjoy you to grab a copy and give it a read.

    A copy of this book was given to me by Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Emily T. Wierenga's Atlas Girl is quite different from the type

    Emily T. Wierenga's Atlas Girl is quite different from the type of book I normally read, but I really enjoyed it and found it very inspirational. Emily is a wordsmith who writes in an unusually beautiful lyrical style that I first came to love in her novel, A Promise in Pieces - prose that at times reads like poetry.




    Part spiritual memoir, part relationship story between Emily and her Mum - Atlas Girl is really a journal and a journey, a journey in which Emily Wierenga takes you by the hand and invites you into the broken places in her life. In her struggles with anorexia and disillusionment with organized religion, Emily bares her soul with complete honesty and I grew spiritually right along with her. By the time I finished reading, I felt like Emily had become my friend.




    These words by popular speaker and writer, Liz Curtis Higgs, beautifully describe Atlas Girl . . . “The best memoirs combine the storytelling elements of a novel–smart pacing, tactile details, people you care about–with the deep insights and spiritual takeaway of great nonfiction. Emily Wierenga deftly serves up that rich blend in Atlas Girl, a nonlinear, wholly moving account of her life’s journey so far. Her honesty is raw, real. Her faith is hard-won. And when it finally pours out, her love–oh, her love soars off the page and makes a nest in our hearts. Brilliant and beautiful.”




    Here are just a few quotes that spoke to me in a profound way . . .




    "Funny how the two go together, grief and wonder, kind of like when Jesus died and his murderers realized he was God even as the sky tore."




    "How does a girl tell a boy that she is damaged? That their love, no matter how poignant, strong, or special, can't reproduce? And so I told him I didn't want kids and then I starved myself as punishment. For not being the woman he needed me to be. For not knowing who I was apart from my eating disorder."




    "You can't become healed, truly healed, unless you revisit the past. Unless you revisit all of those aching, pulsing places and invite God into them."




    "The closer we let ourselves get to Jesus, the more we learn the way he sees. We learn the way he loves. And we learn the way he gives. And he never stops giving and we never stop receiving."




    Atlas Girl will touch so many people - those who have battled with anorexia or know someone who has, those with a passion for world missions, anyone who has been disappointed or frustrated with organized religion, moms and daughters, and anyone who wants to be inspired by a real-life journey. Recommended to everyone!




    Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I offered to review Emily Wierenga's memoir because I read her t

    I offered to review Emily Wierenga's memoir because I read her tagline, "Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look." Having moved around the United States, chasing my husband's career, I wondered if we'd ever find home again, all while telling our kids that home is wherever we are, as long as we're all together. Emily takes the thought deeper in that home is where God is and the kingdom of heaven is within us, so as long as we have God, we are home wherever He leads us to go. And that is just one nugget in the treasure chest of a book that Atlas Girl is. I loved Emily's poetic voice, her transparency, and her ability to minister in the everyday issues of life. If you are wondering if you have a purpose, if you are loved unconditionally for who you are, if God is real in the heartaches of life, or if you'll ever find home, this is definitely a book for you.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    "Atlas Girl" is a travel-esque memoir from a girl who

    "Atlas Girl" is a travel-esque memoir from a girl who carries her feelings deep.
    A survivor of anorexia (the first bout being from age nine to age thirteen), Emily is still on the run from hurts and herself.
    She weaves her story making us a very part of the fabric, tucking us in as she travels around Canada, Japan, China, Mexico, and further.
     
    The book itself is laid out in fun style, alternating between the 'Now' of 2007 and her life leading up to that point.
    Wierenga has written two previous books that focus more on her eating disorder, but here in 'Atlas Girl' it just becomes a part of a larger
     story. The story follows a common thread, a searching, a yearning to understand God, faith, and the need for unconditional love.
     Wierenga shares her thoughts and words raw and honest, often in a self-deprecating way. 

    I devoured her book, her easy prose writing style. I turned page after page joining in her search for unconditional love.
    And a lovely bonus? I lived vicariously through her travels around the world. I would recommend this book to all who have struggled with
    anorexia or depression (very little triggers here!), enjoy prose written travel memoirs, and are searching for unconditional love.
    I'm rating it with 4.5 Stars 


    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own
    Check out more of this review and others at Sunrise Avenue

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  • Posted July 5, 2014

      Two months ago, I read Emily Wierenga's debut novel A Promise

      Two months ago, I read Emily Wierenga's debut novel A Promise in Pieces. After finishing that intense and beautiful WWII Era story, I looked up her personal blog. When I read about her struggle with anorexia and her experience caring for her Mother who had brain cancer, I wished she would write her own story. Little did I know that she already had.
    Atlas Girl is Emily Wierenga's memoir, and I am honored to be a Revell Reads Reviewer for it.




    This book moved me the same way my favorite songs do.... parts of it were sad and parts were happy and as I read I reflected on what she was telling me about her own story and I thought about what my family stories had in common with hers and where they were different.




    Emily writes in a way that lets us borrow her eyes and her heart for a moment. She can take one impression, one fundamental sight or spoken word and share a whole remembrance off of it.  She is clearly a noticer of life. I think all artists, poets, and authors must be. When they notice life, they are able to give it back to us and help us truly see it.




    This story that she shared is definitely an offering, to the world and to the people and the God who loves Emily.  And because she was willing to give us her story, in turn she offers hope. Atlas Girl reminds us that it is OK to go away to try to find home.  It's OK to not know how to simply *be* loved, and it is possible to learn.  We humans wander,  and someday we will find the road waiting for us. And if you ever feel like you are disappearing, you're not crazy and you're not abandoned.... God always remains because He Loves You.




    I've already passed my copy on to a teenage girl.




    Thank you Revell publishers for my review copy.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    We¿ve heard the old meme, you can¿t go home again, but this isn¿

    We’ve heard the old meme, you can’t go home again, but this isn’t true. Sometimes we just have to realize what home really means, and that God is there, wherever we go and whatever we are going through.

    I love how this memoir reads like a novel. I also enjoy the way the author organized the chapters, with a stated setting, date, and opening quote. The chapters are short and the narration is engaging—as if Emily is sitting across the table telling you of her travels.

    This book is not only Emily’s journey, but the reader’s as well, as we travel with her through dark and light, sadness and joy, loss and reward. Though I haven’t experienced most of what Emily has, I could still relate to her emotions and fears. I sympathized, encouraged, and rejoiced with her.

    A colorful, inspiring and encouraging memoir of loss and redemption.

    Cover: Like it
    Title: Like it
    Publisher: Baker Books
    Pages: 288
    Pace: steady
    First Lines: The smell of my hands reminds me of Africa. Of mangoes mashed, of Mum feeding me, and my brother too. And now I’m feeding her, and she doesn’t open her mouth when I ask her to.
     
    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Revell Books book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    Atlas Girl is a memoir about a woman who struggled with anorexia

    Atlas Girl is a memoir about a woman who struggled with anorexia, beginning at the age of eight, stemming from a feeling of being unloved.  She chronicles her life growing up in a family where her parents found it difficult to show the outward signs of affection Emily craved.  Included in her narrative, are stories and musings about the author’s evolution to adulthood and becoming a mother.  God’s love and care for the author is a central theme, as she seeks Him and cultivates a deeper understanding of His involvement in her life.  She is adept at explaining her feelings and conveying her emotions and writes with honesty and vulnerability.  It was especially satisfying to see her reconcile her relationship with her parents and really come to love them. The turning point in her relationship with her parents happens as Emily is caring for her mother, who suffers from a brain tumor. The book is full of struggles, which creates a somber tone, which made it difficult for me to read at times.  Yet it is through these struggles that the author’s relationship to God developed and matured.  Each chapter indicates the time period in which the events are taking place but then woven with in that are descriptions or memories from another time period.  At first it was challenging to read but after a few chapters, I got use to the author’s style.  Another interesting aspect about the book was all the places she traveled and her experiences in these places.  

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    Raw and Honest Atlas Girl ¿ Finding Home in the Last Place I Tho

    Raw and Honest
    Atlas Girl – Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look by Emily T. Wierenga is the first memoir I've read in years, and I didn't quite know what to expect at first. Emily writes in an organized manner with chapter headings and well-known quotes that give you an idea of what's coming. I found myself relating to Emily, who is a pastor's daughter and who's caring for her mother with brain cancer. My father was a pastor, so I could understand Emily's pain of feeling like his best was sometimes saved for the church people, and that the family, at times, had to go along with his latest ministry strategy. My mother often felt the isolation and loneliness that her mother felt. My father also had brain tumors, like her mother, and I spent a great deal of time caring for him until his death in 2002. Emily draws you into her life, from childhood and beyond. Her life has been filled with far more travels and adventure…and pain…than I've ever felt, but when reading this, I felt her pain. She suffered from anorexia as a child and left home at eighteen to start over. She married and lived in various places until returning home to care for her mother. It is there that she discovers much of what she's been searching for her entire life. Through this memoir, Emily attempts to reach out to those who have struggles with issues like her own. If you enjoy reading about someone's life experiences, or know of someone who struggles with relational issues, this book should be at the top of your list.
    I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    I am not sure how or when I discovered Emily¿s blog. All I know

    I am not sure how or when I discovered Emily’s blog. All I know for certain is her writing struck a cord deep in my soul.

    Then I read a novel written by her, A Promise In Pieces, which I loved and I was all in – wanting to read anything Emily would write. So I pre-ordered her memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home In The Last Place I Thought To Look and waited a very long time for it to arrive in my mailbox. A very long time.

    It was worth the wait!

    This is a memoir and so much more. From the first page, Emily weaves a story, her story, much the way a novel would read. It is full of emotions with rich details which draw you in immediately. I fell in love with each of the persons mentioned in this book. Emily’s honesty is raw as she shares painful experiences, breaking open her doubts, her anger and her faith.

    This book is a journal of her travels, not only to foreign lands but of her journey with God.

    It is a journey not of just survival but of overcoming in spite of the odds.

    It is a love story weaving together the love of a man and a woman who were committed to make their relationship work. It is the love story of a daughter and her parents. It is a love story of a fragile woman and her God. And it is real.

    My heart skipped a beat as I realized my husband and I were in Japan and China at the same time as Emily, visiting many of the same sights. I cried as she shared of her miscarriage and subsequent surgeries to rid her body of precancerous cells as it brought back my own memories. And I rejoiced as I fully identified with her words, “This is marriage; to be stronger, when the other is weak.”

    Atlas Girl is a book about travel but more so, it is a book which demonstrates the lengths our God will travel to come after us, pursuing us in order to bring us back home to Him. And all the proceeds from this book go towards funding The Lulu Tree, a ministry “dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers”, in Uganda.

    This book is highly recommended and truly is a must read!

    The book is available today. I want to urge you to order and read the book for two reasons – the book will greatly impact your life and it will support The Lulu Tree. There can be no better return from the purchase of a book than this!

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