Todd Landry is not coping well with the sudden death of his wife and reluctantly seeks counseling. However, just getting himself to a therapist’s office is not enough, and after spending a number of unproductive weeks together, the counselor urges him to start blogging about his life. Todd begins opening up about his feelings online, and in turn begins coping with his life again. He learns that life is messy and choices aren’t always black-and-white like we think they are, but also that people can grow and change in surprising ways.
I will admit that I was a bit reluctant to read this book, mainly because the protagonist and the author were male (I know, I am admitting my total bias towards female-related topics. I’m sorry!) After reading several positive reviews, my interest was piqued and I decided to dive in when I had a free day over Thanksgiving break. I was pleasantly surprised and can now recommend this book as one of the best I’ve read this year. Author Ryan Rapier covers a wide variety of sensitive issues with both candor and grace, and the resolution finds a sweet spot of faith-affirming realism that manages to avoid both vapid sentimentality and cynicism.
This is not a perfectly written novel–there were some spots where the conceit of blog writing felt a little awkward to me, there are a number of secondary characters included and some are more fleshed-out and believable than others, and the character of the therapist was not very realistic. Those flaws, though, were minor in comparison to the book’s strengths. I think this book could very easily be enjoyed by a number of different audiences and most readers could find something to relate to–Todd deals with issues as a parent, a son and brother, a friend, an employee, and a Church member that we all face (I don’t want to give too many details away for fear of spoiling your reading experience). Despite some of the difficult issues Todd confronts, the tone of the book is always engaging and even humorous at times.
For me, the best part of reading the book was a peek inside the head of a modern, Mormon man. I have little experience with male Mormons–my father was inactive and I have been divorced for a few years from a gay man who was mostly inactive during most of our marriage. As I mentioned, I tend to gravitate toward female-authored books about the female experience; I don’t even talk to men very much. While Todd and I have some things in common as single Mormon parents in our mid-30s trying to navigate dating and parenting and all that, we also have a lot of differences as well (and yes, I’ve also gone to therapy and really wished the therapist would just read my mind and solve all my problems for me). Reading this book was an experience in empathy for me and I learned quite a lot about some of the complexities that men face as Church members.
If you are looking for a Christmas present for yourself, or for the special man in your life, buy a copy of The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier. Or, even better, buy a copy to share, read it together, and then discuss. Oh, and don’t forget to nominate it for a Whitney Award after you read–I’d really love to see this as one of the finalists.