SURPRISED BY GOD: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion

A textured, well-written postmodern story of faith.

Chronicling her journey from riot grrrl to rabbinate student on the verge of ordination, Danya Ruttenberg takes readers through many of the painful yet necessary steps of her spiritual journey in this thoughtful and articulate memoir. Her account begins when, as a teenager disgruntled by the empty ritualism of Judaism, she declared herself an atheist. Her early experiences in the alternative-music scene of the ’90s filled that need for mystic communion that she couldn’t find in synagogue. Ultimately, however, Ruttenberg began a spiritual journey fueled by her curiosity about the human need for the sacred and her experiences as a young adult.

While many of her experiences are similar to others’ in her generation—love, loss, and identity struggle—her style of combining personal experience with a wide range of philosophic responses gives her narrative greater texture. Ruttenberg is as likely to quote Sufi mystics and Catholic saints as she is to refer to Jewish writers; she is seeking a truth that transcends doctrine. This postmodern story of faith is perhaps also indicative of a new generation of spiritual seekers, who have found a way to connect across religions as they seek a connection with God.