SIN BOLDLY: A Field Guide for Grace
As a religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Cathleen Falsani has covered issues of faith and religion from locations around the world. In her new book, SIN BOLDLY, she invites readers to a land that is everywhere yet all too often hard to find: the place of grace. She writes:
“It is much easier and, I would argue, more helpful to describe what grace feels like through stories and images that illustrate the varied ways grace is experienced when encountered in the wild, than it is to attempt to define it definitively, to trap it, or cage it. Maybe that’s why Jesus was so fond of parables: Nothing describes the indescribable like a good yarn.”
In a series of short vignettes, Falsani takes a look at grace not so much from a theological perspective as from snapshots of the found in both everyday life and extraordinary experiences. But the best glimpses of grace are found in her relationships.
One of the most notable is with a rabbi who lives in Montana and serves the small Jewish population in the region. He manages to teach Falsani a lesson in life and grace that she couldn’t learn any other way.
Another colorful relationship concerns Falsani’s friend, Bubba, who couldn’t be more different from herself. Together they make a trip to Elvis’s old stomping grounds, Graceland. After touring the mansion one hot afternoon, she writes, “The faith that Elvis had as a child, and that Bubba and I share, promises that it doesn’t matter whether he could pull it together in the end. Grace fills that gap.” Such rich observations line the pages of SIN BOLDLY.
In addition to offbeat places like Graceland, Falsani invites readers around the world. She visits the slum housing in Kenya, the northernmost point of Ireland and even makes a stop in Nairobi. In the process, she reminds us that grace knows no geographical barriers. It reaches from the rich to the poor, from the ends of the earth into our own homes. Yet it’s some of her headline locations that provide the best fodder for her writing. She describes an unforgettable watermelon gazpacho through one woman’s kindness in the aftermath of Katrina.
In her title chapter, she talks about revisiting one of her most controversial columns on the death of Jerry Fallwell. The incredibly thought-provoking piece resulted in endless amounts of hate mail but also a few unexpected dollops of grace.
Throughout the book, Falsani refers to her favorite artists, musicians and songs --- thus inviting readers not just to go on an adventure in grace with her but also to listen for the soundtrack of grace.
Overall, SIN BOLDLY is an extremely well-written book that touches the heart and the soul. Falsani’s slightly irreverent style makes her all the more endearing, and by the time I finished reading it, I felt like I had made a good friend. I hope you do, too.
--- Reviewed by Margaret Oines
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