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Life after the NoW

07 March 2014

by Rachel Harden

RUTH ROBERTS's Am I Missing Something? Christianity through the eyes of a new believer (Authentic Media, £7.99 (£7.20); 978-1-78078-026-9) is her take on life in an Evangelical church. The author, a former News of the World reporter, writes: "Much has been written about what happened in the run-up to the paper's demise inJuly 2011. By the time I left on December 31 1999, it was already a deeply unhappy place to work andI was a deeply unhappy person."

What follows is a bird's-eye tour, in diary form, of her life since, in no methodical order: a poignant spiritual moment in a candlelit Polish church, the boyfriend who becomes her husband, the Alpha course that draws them into the Church, children, job issues, and the ongoing struggles and joys of daily family life.

The observations are pertinent: "Most of the females I have come across so far seem capable of effortlessly throwing together a nutritious soup and several varieties of delicious biscuits in five minutes flat while juggling babies, husbands and successful home-based careers." Then there is the awkwardness in worship sessions and reluctance to go up to the front.

The memories of a gay colleague who committed suicide continue to haunt: "Bishops and archdeacons can discuss it forever, but this is what happens with real people - they get hurt, they feel rejected and sometimes their hearts are broken."

As the book moves on, these questions are asked, temporarily solved (usually by a helpful word from a Christian friend, or acceptance that there are no answers), and then seem to reappear again in a different form. Interspersed are personal notes to the author's father.

It is more autobiographical than theological, and hence a quick, easy read. The faith journey of her critical friend Val, a cynic, yet drawn to something, will resonate with many, and, like much in the book, is described well but left hanging.

The most interesting sections are when she grapples with her media role (she moves on after the NoW before eventually deciding to be at home with the growing family) and how that is often in conflict with her Christian values. She is particularly challenged by a TV reporter who believes that the "crazies" always grab the headlines, and challenges her Christianity at work.

Much of the book is based on a column in Christianity magazine, and reads as such. "Am I missing something?" does not really get answered. I look forward to the sequel in 20 years' time - not least, will the author have learnt how to bake several varieties of delicious biscuits? I rather hope not.

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