On Fire for the Lord and Other Scalding Tales
by Bodie Parkhurst

Magic Dog Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-482-33176-9.
Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Posted on 08/08/2014
Review of the Month, August 2014

Nonfiction: Memoir

Some kids who grow up in conservative Christian homes toe the line. Others rebel when restrictions make Jesus seem like an oppressive tyrant. Bodie Parkhurst rebelled inside, but she also learned to take responsibility for her talents, her education, and her thoughts, and she tells the story of skirting others' expectations in order to find herself in On Fire for the Lord and Other Scalding Tales. The fact that "and other scalding tales" is printed in tiny letters beneath the brazen huge print of On Fire for the Lord conveys the author's message: Little girls feel powerless until they grow up they take their power back.

Young Bodie wants to believe in Jesus, but she can't. Nor can she lie about it. Christians aren't supposed to lie, but when she tells the truth she gets spanked. She learns to go out witnessing, but tosses her flyers in the bushes and hides rather than knock on doors. Her turmoil increases in her twenties when she has an affair with the pastor she works for.

She's 27 before she escapes to college, where a writing teacher tells her to "Write truly," and goes on to say, "All good writing is true to life—which is not to say it's true to fact. It grows out of human experience." When she hears those words, she catches fire for herself, and realizes that her experiences are not as isolated as she thought. She learns to write her truth in an engaging way, and gives us a three-dimensional look at self-discovery and the role that writing can play in it. She certainly caught my interest.

When I saw the title I assumed the book would be about growing up in a conservative Christian world and rebelling against it, but as the story progresses it becomes more three-dimensional and less cliched. Parkhurst's writing is natural, open, and descriptive. Books about surviving a harsh religious upbringing are often about overcoming the impact of bullying parents and a repressive church, but as Parkhurst's story develops, she shows how she learned to take responsibility for her own actions and cope with things beyond her control.

I cheered when she left for college and found her purpose in that English composition class. The author's illustrations are very well done and they remind us that faith means different things to different people. Though she's writing about a sensitive subject she's done it so well that people can relate to the emotions regardless of their beliefs. There are a few proofreading glitches, but they don't detract from her overall message. Reading Bodie Parkhurst's life story may help you to tell your own.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Bodie Parkhurst has been writing and illustrating stories since third grade. She has worked as a reader, a tutor, a ranch hand, a mechanic, a truck driver, a dairy maid, a writer, an editor, a fine artist, an illustrator, and a designer. In addition to writing, illustrating, and designing her own books, she designs books for NewSage Press, apparel and home decorating items for Magic Dog Press, and just about anything her clients request, from banners and billboards to annual reports to whitepapers to ads.

Her non-fiction writing has been appearing in various newspapers and magazines under the name "Sherry Wachter" for two decades.

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