Book Critique: Lauren Winner’s Mudhouse Sabbath

mudhouse sabbath piclauren-winner picMudhouse Sabbath is written in a style hat is slightly more formal but still personal. What I appreciate about her technique is that she chooses topics for each chapter and uses different events, books, and experiences in her life to discuss the particular theme of each chapter, how her life was affected, and how she translated it to her new faith. I also like that she blended both Jewish language and the translation for it in the titles of the chapters. As a Christian who understands the Jewish heritage of my faith and the point at which they diverge, I found this book intriguing. I understand, in an American way, points of similarity and differences between the two faiths. I also understand her thoughts about both faith’s and how both have positive and negatives.

 The entire book is a compare and contrast between not only Jews and Christians, but also Jewish tradition and the American apathy about tradition and formal roles of people and family. It is interesting and makes me wish that a certain amount of formality still existed in society.

Instead, we have migrated so far away from such behavior that to go back would be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I can see her struggle with the tradition of her previous faith/life and her move to Christianity and its differences. Perhaps there is something that Christians can learn from the tradition and formality of the Jewish faith and heritage.  Perhaps there is something that the Jewish faith/heritage can learn from Christianity. It is interesting to ponder the notion that there is a difference between Jewish faith and heritage and American heritage and Christianity. We forget that this is true and often blend them into one.

 Lauren’s journey into Christianity through the eyes of Jewish upbringing is a unique perspective. It warrants contemplation by both sides. The blending of these two faiths is certainly much easier than another faith or set of faiths, but there is still a tension that you see her struggle with. Almost all of her chapters discuss this blending in the context of the Sabbath. She discusses traditional and contemporary Judaism and their differences and then compares that with how traditional and modern Christians observe the day. There are so many bits and pieces that for Christians, I think they miss out on what it truly means, “to rest” and Judaism is at the opposite spectrum. Perhaps Lauren Winner is onto something with a hybrid between the two. There is something to be said for reverence, Sabbath observance, and learning to rest and remember that Christianity is desperately missing.

 The ending of the book surprised me. It just ends, almost as if there was going to be another chapter. I’m used to a wrap up; something that sums up what was written or some kind of saying that gives you something to ponder. This just ends as if to say, “okay I’m done now.” It feels awkward and I feel myself wanting and expecting more. As a writer, while I know it is always good to the leave the reader wanting more, typically that seems fitting for fiction and not a memoir or other non-fiction. I didn’t think this was effective.


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