Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace by Anne Marie Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Near the beginning of this book Anne Miller (then Anne Jackson) wrote, “Fear wants to stop our stories.” From that origination point she does her best to make sure that her story is not stopped by that fear. This book is part cafe’ conversation, part confession, and part testimony. And when I say is it “part” something I mean that it is a collection of parts, pieces, life snapshots, and memoirs that are all working together in the way a group of left-handed people would attempt to reach around a blind corner; that is to say, they fully accomplish their goal but they do so in ways that at times have to be seen as awkward. But that in no way is a criticism, in fact it is this gangley lumbering that gives the book its charm. The chapters at time feel as if Miller sat down to write something else and then thought, “wait, I remember this time when…” and then proceeds to fully make her point but in wonderfully unexpected ways.
She is honest in this book. Honest about herself, about life, about Christians, about the church. What must be realized however, is that while truth is an objective reality honesty is very personal, and therefore subjective. There were a few places where I probably disagreed with her conclusions (not many, and not ardently), but in those moments I never thought for a second that she wasn’t being honest, forthcoming, and straight. In this book honesty is the place where we are authentic and real and being right or wrong comes along after.
I would highly recommend this book to church people who are tired and to anyone who values honesty. There is redemption in the pages of this book, a subtle, sneek-up-from-behind-you kind of redemption that lures you in with its conversational tone and then leads you to a table in the back where you sit down to eat dinner opposite a mirror. Anne’s story is anything but graceful, but it’s full of grace. She speaks in a language that church kids will understand, resonate with, be tempted to look down on, and then tearfully realize is their own.
I am grateful for having read this book.