I wanted to read Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler as soon as I saw it. I was also raised in a strict religion, and I figured I would relate to Hartzler’s memoir of his childhood in an evangelical family. I imagined bonding with him over not being allowed to watch The Smurfs or read fantasy novels. But Hartzler’s religious childhood put mine to shame.
For example, in the religious community of my childhood R rated movies were taboo (even for adults) and PG-13 movies were subject to debate (for adults and definitely for teens). For Hartzler? No secular movies or television at all. Movies, it turns out, were one of his first Big Rebellions. There were many more rebellions along the way, as you might imagine. Music. Drinking. Girls.
But here is what really stood out to me about Rapture Practice: I didn’t finish the book hating Hartzler’s parents. Yes, they made him destroy his secret collection of secular music, and they punished him for really ridiculous things. But you can tell that Hartzler doesn’t hate them. Actually, he said in this Kirkus article that the book is a love note to his parents. It says, “To date, he’s unsure if his parents have read his book or ever will.”
I started reading expecting to compare notes on what we weren’t allowed to do as teens. Instead I found a thoughtful memoir about growing up and away from your family’s way of looking at the world. I think most people will be able to relate to that.
If I have anything bad to say about the book, it’s that it ended too soon. It ends as Hartzler is just beginning to question his faith and confront his sexuality (spoiler: he’s gay). I want that story too.
The Kirkus review says, “A hilarious first-of-its-kind story that will surely inspire more.”
I agree. I feel inspired. Perhaps I’ll share bits of my own story, which is odd by many standards though not quite as odd as Hartzler’s turned out to be. I only hope I can do it with the tact and balance that Hartzler did.
Miss last month’s Book Pick? Check it out: Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham