One of the clubs at Written Words read The Girl Who Slept with God, and while I’m not a member of that particular group, I’m always up for a book recommendation. I saw this one on the counter and picked it up.
A compelling first novel
The Girl Who Slept with God is a first novel by Val Brelinski, who teaches creative writing in Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. The protagonist is not the one who slept with God, but her sister, Jory, a girl on the cusp of fourteen whose father expels her and her sister from the family home after the sister gets pregnant on a mission trip.
The opening chapter is engaging but disturbing; the father, a so-called evangelical Christian, settles two under-age girls into a dilapidated house and splits. He returns every so often with a bag of groceries. A Harvard-educated scientist, he seems reasonable in almost every exchange. He’s an admirable citizen doing perfectly despicable things, in this case to his own daughters.
The story is set in 1970, and Brelinski uses details well to bring us back to that time. You can hear the ring of the ice cream truck, see the Gunne Sax prom dresses, taste the birthday cake. Jory ends up on an accidental acid trip after an older guy at a party slips a tab into her unsuspecting hand. After Jory’s father pulls her out of her “Christian” school, the scenes in which Jory acclimates to a public school are poignant and funny.
Other characters include Jory’s mother, who spends a lot of time on pills in a darkened room (I know I would) and a spritely younger sister named Frances, whose joy and optimism the reader fears will be sucked out at the evangelicals’ earliest opportunity.
Oppression is not Christian
The Girl Who Slept with God is an interesting examination of a cult that pretends to be Christianity. People can recite New Testament verses all day long, but if they’re oppressing or alienating anyone (in this case a young pregnant woman and her even younger sister), they’re not overly familiar with the teachings of Jesus.
While Jory’s father never quotes Ephesians 5, the book brought to my mind evangelicals that do. I’m always amazed at so-called Christians who oppress women and quote Ephesians 5:22, as if it were the Great Commandment, as if Christ died solely so that some insecure numbskull could make himself feel better about himself by knocking a woman around.
The people who live by Ephesians 5:22 ignore 5:21, which advises wives and husbands to be “subordinate to one another,” and also 5:25, which exhorts men to love their wives. This bit is particularly interesting to me: Women are told to submit to their husbands, while men are told to love their wives. Women get the better deal because submission is inherent in love. Love is definitely not inherent in submission.
But, hey, suit yourself.
If you think reading this book triggered me, you’re right. It’s fascinating how people will twist scripture for their own creepy ends. It’s distressing that these people have driven others from the truth about Christ.
The Girl Who Slept with God makes a compelling study of religious extremism. Those who would suggest that Brelinski has unfairly targeted good wholesome God fearers are wrong. She knows what she’s writing about. She grew up in a family like Jory’s.
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