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Book review: Have a Little Faith: Life lessons on love, death and how lasagne always helps by Kate Bottley

by
15 September 2023

But a format kinder on the pocket would help, says Richard Greatrex

PART testimony, fizzing through a catalogue of mildly self-deprecating anecdotes, part a series of life lessons, this first book from Kate Bottley is unlikely to win over anyone who isn’t already in tune with her effervescent media persona; but her energy and chatty, sometimes giggly, and occasionally lightly saucy style allows her to open up conversations, potentially connecting with those who might not normally consider that the Christian faith, or the Church, has anything positive to offer them.

The author’s encounter with someone who asks, “What’s a bishop?” reminds us that the Christian world that Church Times readers inhabit daily is not even a blip on the radar in most people’s lives.

A little faith can, indeed, go a long way, however. So, after initially placing herself soundly in the context of her own upbringing, belief, priestly vocation, and media ministry, Bottley gets straight down to addressing topics such as success, love, strength, conflict, confidence, loneliness, and grief.

Through vivid stories, her own collection of celebrity encounters and faux pas, quiet insight, and a gently persistent love of Christ, she challenges preconceptions, strips out “churchy” language, and attempts to show how even the slenderest thread of belief can be beneficial when it comes to dealing with the muck and mess of life.

Although some of us in parochial ministry (described here as “old-school vicars”) may squirm a little at Bottley’s lithe discussion of individual success, beginning with her own appearances in the TV series Gogglebox, among other media engagements, there are many aspects of the book, including the “Three Good Things” to think about or do at the end of each chapter, which are practical, thoughtful and encouraging.

The chapter on confidence feels, at times, to be the most personally revealing, while those on loneliness and grief are reassuringly compassionate. Throughout, Bottley explains how her faith has developed to become more inclusive and questioning, and shares her frustrations with a Church that sometimes feels infernally clueless, needlessly exclusive, and increasingly irrelevant.

What a shame that the large-print hardback format favoured by the publishers and the hefty price of £18.99 may well cut against the book’s appeal to the casually curious seeker or reader. A slimmer, more affordable paperback would have made this an excellent book to give away, or use as the basis of a marriage-preparation course or as a discussion-starter on the pressing topics that it tackles.
 

The Revd Richard Greatrex is Rector of the Chew Valley East Benefice, in Somerset.

 

Have a Little Faith: Life lessons on love, death and how lasagne always helps
Kate Bottley
Penguin £18.99
(978-0-241-60566-0)
Church Times Bookshop £14.99

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