Still
Following up her highly acclaimed Girl Meets God, author Lauren F. Winner has written an engrossing reflection of literary grace and spiritual wisdom with Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.As she lives through a failed marriage and the loss of her mother, Winner finds her Christian faith slipping away. Through reading religious works and tomes and being counseled by leaders of the church, she learns she must find the courage to trust in God in order to to find His presence.Elegantly written and profound, Still offers reflections on how murky and gray the spiritual life can be while, at the same time, shows us how to see the light we do encounter more clearly.

Still Details

TitleStill
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 31st, 2012
PublisherHarperone
ISBN-139780061768118
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Nonfiction, Christian, Religion, Faith, Christianity, Biography, Biography Memoir, Christian Non Fiction

Still Review

  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    Dark Night of the Evangelical Hipster ChickAfter reading an advance copy of Lauren Winner’s new (forthcoming in February) memoir Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, it occurred to me that far more egocentric than writing a book all about oneself is the feat of writing a book all about oneself and trying to play it off as a book about anyone or anything else.Furthermore, the one thing more outrageously premature and obnoxious than writing a memoir—a spiritual memoir, no less—before old or even mi Dark Night of the Evangelical Hipster ChickAfter reading an advance copy of Lauren Winner’s new (forthcoming in February) memoir Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, it occurred to me that far more egocentric than writing a book all about oneself is the feat of writing a book all about oneself and trying to play it off as a book about anyone or anything else.Furthermore, the one thing more outrageously premature and obnoxious than writing a memoir—a spiritual memoir, no less—before old or even middle age or even 35, is writing two. There are, of course, exceptional circumstances under which a very young person’s memoirs may be notable or especially insightful. The occasion of being a privileged young academic from the American South East does not rise to this level of notability. Winner cannot be blamed for this, entirely. Confessional prose is one of the few publishing avenues wide open to talented young female writers, and only open then given that they fulfill certain prerequisites (attractive, willing to talk about sexuality…) and even then, privilege and connections are required to even get in the door. Winner’s career as a 30-something serial memoirist illustrates, through no fault of her own, everything that is wrong and corrupt in the current American publishing industry.Nonetheless, I was excited to read Still, and despite my slight quibbles and larger objections to Winner’s style and theology, I had enjoyed her previous works. The book purports to not be a straight memoir, nor a guidebook, but more of a public service, I suppose, a companion for those of us Christians who might ourselves experience a sort of…dark night of the soul. Which is, of course, an allusion to a work far better suited to serve such a purpose than Winner’s present volume. Winner’s crisis of faith was brought on by the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage. Or so the blurb tells me. Once I started reading the book, it all became a lot less clear.The whole book reads strangely. It is as though we are trapped in Winner’s head with her, and it is decidedly a miserable and lonely place to be. Other people are but vague, passing thoughts that pass by on the outside. Events are obscured by constant ruminating. There is no ground to stand upon, no anchor to pull us down, no fresh air to hit our faces and snap us out of the fugue. The marriage is never spoken of in any illuminating detail; her husband is nameless. (I would respect the nod to privacy were he not named in full in her other works and all over the web—given that, this is just odd and confusing.) When Winner speaks of her late mother, it is in weirdly distant terms, passively hostile, perhaps a hint of denial, or perhaps we should take her statements at face value—she really doesn’t miss her? Winner never makes concrete any of the details that make a memoir vivid. While she drops names and tries to impress us with her very Relevant magazine Christian hipster tastes, she doesn’t tell us what her married life was like, really, what she misses, what she regrets, what HAPPENED. Where we are! What’s going on! She just kind of wanders around in a miserable fog, and we are stuck there with her, ruminating.Because of all of this, we are to believe God is “absent.” Now this is one of my theological pet peeves. Why are we to believe God is absent whenever a yuppy has the flu? It screams of spiritual wimpiness, as it is ALWAYS these spoiled types who are bemoaning the absence of God when anything goes wrong in their lives. The poor working sorts of the world lean on God even more heavily, by and large, when things go bad. The rich and spoilt whine that God has abandoned them when very normal, cycle of life, kinds of bad things go down. It is the definition of self-centered and overprivileged.In fact, rather like a spoiled child, Winner proclaims that if believing in Jesus means she has to stay married, she just won’t believe! That showed Him! It never occurs to her, I suppose, that it’s not Jesus’ fault that she has chosen to make herself a very public figure proclaiming very authoritatively and very smugly a very rigid form of Christianity. That she chose to make sexual fidelity the focus of her public preaching. That she has chosen to make statements like that it is better to marry just for sex than to have premarital sex and sin. (One might be tempted to pull a Dr. Phil on her about that one.) She has chosen to make her living by loudly narrating her conversion only several scant years after it started—only a few scant years after her prior conversion to Jewish orthodoxy. By now narrating this “crisis of faith” only a few years later, it is as though her spiritual evolution was crippled by her own self-satisfaction in chronicling it, and her vaunted “pure” marriage, much the same. Did she love a man, or the idea of being piously married? She has nothing specific to say about Griff, the man she left. She never seems to see the hubris and hamartia in this little tragedy. Or if she does, she certainly isn’t telling US about them. That would really be risky.Reading, I just wanted to pull Winner out of herself. She seems to have some vague sense that she is to blame for some of this mess, but she needs to work it out with the people involved, not inside her head, and not with the audience for her memoirs. Theologically, I find this book useless as a teaching moment (although it purports to be one) because she never delves into the concrete matters that brought her to crisis. So she feels like she’s a bad Christian because she married and then quickly divorced. How does she resolve that? It seems she resolves to ignore it and move on—something that tells me that the personal trainwreck resulting in memoir number three can’t be long down the road from here. She doesn’t miss her dead mom, what’s that about? Is it numbness from deep grief? Unresolved something else? What does it mean, spiritually, to feel that way? These questions don’t need to be definitively answered, but they must be at least addressed. But to fall back on a cliche accusation, Winner seems too self-absorbed to have perspective on any of this. Which is perhaps understandable, but it makes her a terrible guide for fellow Christians feeling a spiritual crisis because of personal issues.I wonder where Winner will go from here. I understand she is planning to become an Episcopal priest, but my sense is that this may just be yet another way for her to run away from whatever anxieties have kept her talking fast and glib since her first memoir. This book was frustrating and unrewarding to read, and I will surely be denounced as a grouch for panning such a fashionable Christian writer. But so be it; Still was a miserable, stifling read.
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  • Stacey
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars. I have mixed feelings about this book. I was not a huge fan of Winner's debut book (a spiritual memoir) Girl Meets God - I found the writing too clever, too self-conscious, and, while she comes across as honest in a way that is meant to be real and raw, I often felt that what was passing for honesty was still a studied attempt at creating a particular image of who she had been and who she had become. Of course, to some extent, that's what memoir is, I suppose.Still is not as glib as 2.5 stars. I have mixed feelings about this book. I was not a huge fan of Winner's debut book (a spiritual memoir) Girl Meets God - I found the writing too clever, too self-conscious, and, while she comes across as honest in a way that is meant to be real and raw, I often felt that what was passing for honesty was still a studied attempt at creating a particular image of who she had been and who she had become. Of course, to some extent, that's what memoir is, I suppose.Still is not as glib as Girl Meets God and not as self-certain as Real Sex (which I admit I refused to read). Winner's approach to her faith and her experience of God have clearly changed, and she is honest about her doubts and her failings. And there are a few things in the book that I liked very much - some great reflections on what it means to be in the middle of life and of the spiritual life, including a wonderful bit on the middle voice in Greek, as well as some nice allusions to other works, including my beloved Emily Dickinson. But in the end, I felt like the book didn't take me anywhere.I felt that, just as with Girl Meets God , Winner's honesty is still a mechanism of control - an attempt to shape an image of herself for the reader: hip, wounded, aesthetically sophisticated, deep. I had the feeling that, even when she was in her deepest crises of faith, she was still outside of it all, studying it, analyzing it, preparing to chronicle it. At times I wondered how fully she actually engaged what was going on in her life (including especially her grief over her mom's death - at one point in the book, she claims to miss nothing about her mother). Winner wants this book to be a helpful reflection on the spiritual themes of desolation and consolation, and she is very uneasy with calling this book a "memoir" - "I don't think this book is really about me" (212). But it very much is. And while it was an easy enough read, and enjoyable at times, it mostly left me cold.
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  • sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I read Lauren Winner's Still when it was first published in 2012 (though my brain has mis-remembered this event as taking place years earlier, when I lived in an entirely different state, for some reason). I remember not liking it much, then. Part of the problem was what I was expecting from Still. I'd stumbled across Girl Meets God, the memoir of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to Protestantism, years earlier, and read it twice in one weekend because I liked it so much. I like I read Lauren Winner's Still when it was first published in 2012 (though my brain has mis-remembered this event as taking place years earlier, when I lived in an entirely different state, for some reason). I remember not liking it much, then. Part of the problem was what I was expecting from Still. I'd stumbled across Girl Meets God, the memoir of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to Protestantism, years earlier, and read it twice in one weekend because I liked it so much. I liked her next book, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, even more. My copies of both of these books are filled with underlinings and scribblings, some of them not my own because I tend to loan them out to (that is, "foist them onto") friends so often. I was probably Winner's exact audience for both books: on the younger end of my twenties, serious about my faith, bookish, desperate for more substantial fare than the usual Christian-lite publications around conversion and chastity. I don't say that to cast aspersions on my past self, or Winner's. There is still a flintiness to the bold, declarative style of those first two books that I appreciate and relate to.Still is an entirely different book. As it says about itself, it is a book about faith crises and spiritual middles, the space between the heady days of conversion and the steadfastness of mature faith, the space between justification and glorification -- what Christians would call sanctification. It is a quieter book, in which Winner is suspicious of her own past flintiness. It is a book that refuses closure. And it is also a book about deep, personal failure. Which is why I think I could not appreciate it when I first read it; I'd not yet come up against failure of the kind of magnitude that Winner describes. (She writes about the end of her marriage: "I came to believe that I could not do this thing I had said I would do; I could not do it; I was unable to do it; it is a mark of my charmed life that it was the first time I had ever tried to do something and simply failed." In this read through, I underlined these lines and wrote in the margin "my dissertation!") I was like a voyeur in 2012 -- Winner had laid herself so bare in Girl Meets God and Real Sex, and I was disappointed that she refuses to get into the gory details of her divorce in Still. I vaguely remember complaining to a friend about this: "If you're going to live a public life, if you're going to argue in your book about sex that marriages belong in community, don't you owe it to your readers to tell them what happened?" I can't believe how presumptuous I was. Because no, you don't actually owe your readers that at all. And Winner makes herself vulnerable in a far different way by refusing to cast blame or to dissect the man she was married to. She lets her readers make their presumptuous assumptions about what the end of her marriage means about her character, her faith, her credentials.While I'm sure this choice was mostly driven by the desire to protect her ex's privacy, I also see it narratively enacting on her reader part of her own bewilderment at the perception of God's withdrawal from her, the sudden deafening silence. The first movement of the book deals with the painful loss of her early religious enthusiasm, the recognition that she can't ever get back to that, the questioning of whether or not she had just made it all up in her head. To anyone who's been through a religious crisis, these are familiar words, but I can't help but think that those familiar with and fond of Winner's earlier works would also feel in some ways that the woman they'd placed on a pedestal had also turned suddenly baffling. That this was not the book they wanted, not the Lauren Winner they wanted, that maybe they never knew her at all. Again, I'm not at all sure if this effect is intended, but it does speak to the care with which the book is written. While Still may seem on the surface like little more than haphazardly pieced together snippets and reflections, I would go so far as to its compositionally superior to Winner's prior books. The waters run deep here indeed. There's the long middle of the middle section (of three). There's the suddenness to how the book ends (in my hardback copy, at least, the last thirty or so pages are given to author's notes, citations, acknowledgements, and I was jolted by how I had no idea I was getting toward the end of the main text), and the lack of satisfactory epiphany. This all feels as deliberate as the many-valenced title of the book. The structure is still perhaps more easily grasped than the content. I read a review of Still where the writer complained that he felt Winner was lying to her audience, lying to herself, throughout, particularly when she writes about her dead mother and "how little I long for her; how rarely I think about her... what I miss about her... [is] 'Nothing.'" When I got to this part of the book, I thought, "Well of course she's 'lying.' She wants us to see that. She even says so two paragraphs earlier," when describing her father describing her mother: "She was a complicated woman. I was not always certain if she was telling me the truth," to which Winner herself responds: "Maybe she was not always certain herself."When I first encountered Winner's work, what I liked most was her certainty. It has taken me years (years of deep failure, and years of living in my own spiritual middle) to appreciate her uncertainty, to recognize that uncertainty as a place that many of us come to inhabit and -- if we are lucky, if we are loved -- move through. I am glad that Lauren Winner meets me there.
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    This was a sad book. An honest, beautiful collection of thoughts, experiences and reflections on faith and doubt, despair and flickers of hope. Though it was an easy read, I put it down partway through and didn't resume til the library due date loomed large.In part, I felt responsible for her spiritual crisis. I devoured and loved all her previous books, putting her on a pedestal of sorts. Perhaps I should have regarded her more as sister than teacher, more fellow sojourner than guru. I can't im This was a sad book. An honest, beautiful collection of thoughts, experiences and reflections on faith and doubt, despair and flickers of hope. Though it was an easy read, I put it down partway through and didn't resume til the library due date loomed large.In part, I felt responsible for her spiritual crisis. I devoured and loved all her previous books, putting her on a pedestal of sorts. Perhaps I should have regarded her more as sister than teacher, more fellow sojourner than guru. I can't imagine the pressure she was under in the midst of a decaying marriage, living such a public religious life.There's not much here about her divorce, which is just as well. Still, I can't help but feel disheartened, disappointed by it.There is a telling line partway through, about how she hides behind all the first-person prose she writes. Makes me want to reread her other books, or maybe not.Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Seems like Ms. Winner is party to a more meditative/contemplative faith than my own, like what I've observed of my colleagues from more liturgical/orthodox backgrounds. My own evangelical church may be missing out on something to be gained from church and scholarly tradition, poetry, prayer books, etc.
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  • Christy
    January 1, 1970
    This was well written and thoughtful book, but I just didn’t connect with the author. She had some interesting things to say about the middle time of faith (especially in the part where she discusses the middle voice in Greek), but mostly, it just felt very dry and distant, like Winner was holding her experiences, and therefore the reader, at arm’s length. Sometimes, I even felt like writing this memoir was an intellectual exercise in navel gazing, like she was talking around God, looking for Go This was well written and thoughtful book, but I just didn’t connect with the author. She had some interesting things to say about the middle time of faith (especially in the part where she discusses the middle voice in Greek), but mostly, it just felt very dry and distant, like Winner was holding her experiences, and therefore the reader, at arm’s length. Sometimes, I even felt like writing this memoir was an intellectual exercise in navel gazing, like she was talking around God, looking for God in books, and ruminating on God as if He were an object sitting in a museum. Maybe it’s because my experience with God has different from her experience (which is okay – we all have different experiences with our faith), or maybe I haven’t encountered the middle time of my faith, yet, so was unable to relate. There also seemed to be no proper ending. At the end, I didn’t understand what she learned or gained or took away from this dark time. The narrative stopped, and when I turned the page, expecting the last chapter, it wasn’t there. This is one of those books that I really wish I could like more.
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  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    January 1, 1970
    Winner found God and related her experience of discovering God and converting from Judaism to Christianity in Girl Meets God. She thought finding God was a done deal, that she was finished with struggle.Then she divorced her husband and found that God was gone. Winner was bereft, filled with anxiety, filled with depression and fears. She felt abandoned, alone. She did not know what to do.She began to do what she does best: she researched others who felt they had lost God and she talked with peop Winner found God and related her experience of discovering God and converting from Judaism to Christianity in Girl Meets God. She thought finding God was a done deal, that she was finished with struggle.Then she divorced her husband and found that God was gone. Winner was bereft, filled with anxiety, filled with depression and fears. She felt abandoned, alone. She did not know what to do.She began to do what she does best: she researched others who felt they had lost God and she talked with people about losing God and she began to write about it and think about it. And somehow she found God again in the middle of all the struggle and she realized this would be something she would deal with every day of the rest of her life. Winner is smart and soulful and funny and poignant. I loved reading this book and I imagine that I will read it again one day. I recommend it for all of us who struggle with our faith (and that is all of us, I think).
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  • Alaina
    January 1, 1970
    A really good, short read. (Finished it in two sittings.) I really love Winner's transparency and honesty in this book as well as the various authors and poetry referenced throughout.
  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    It gets better...I almost put this book down quite a few times. The author reveals to us her painful struggles with her divorce and her faith. She brings us through her OCD and intense introspection and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue to go through it with her. But this book got better as she got better. By the end I was saying over and over again to myself how profound some of her writing was - how beautifully she explained some things. In one chapter she talks about how she can't always say It gets better...I almost put this book down quite a few times. The author reveals to us her painful struggles with her divorce and her faith. She brings us through her OCD and intense introspection and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue to go through it with her. But this book got better as she got better. By the end I was saying over and over again to myself how profound some of her writing was - how beautifully she explained some things. In one chapter she talks about how she can't always say some things out loud because she's afraid she doesn't really mean them with her whole heart, but when she sings them in church - she means them at that moment. I have said that to myself so many times.Here are some of my favorite quotes:"There was a season when, for me, Jesus was no more and no less than the reason I had to stay in a marriage I didn't want to be in. When Jesus was nothing but Rule. I am now beginning to recollect that Jesus is Rule, but that he is also many other things: mother, bread of life, author of my salvation, the bright morning star. We are now getting reacquainted."She talks about a friend who shared with her pastor father when she was twelve and about to be confirmed that she wasn't sure she could go through with it because of her doubts. Her father said to her, "What you promise when you are confirmed...is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise when you are confirmed is that that is the story you will wrestle with forever."She quotes ethicist Samuel Wells: "Stories...told with...heroes at the centre of them...are told to laud the virtues of the heroes - for if the hero failed, all would be lost. By contrast, a saint can fail in a way that the hero can't, because the failure of the saint reveals the forgiveness and the new possibilities made in God, and the saint is just a small character in a story that's always fundamentally about God." Then she says: "I am not a saint. I am, however, beginning to learn that I am a small character in a story that is always fundamentally about God."
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  • Ellen Dollar
    January 1, 1970
    I read this in one afternoon. While my life is very different than Winner's (I am older, married, have kids, do not have a Ph.D. or even a traditional job, and have never particularly loved church, although I still go every week), I reacted viscerally to the idea of being in the listless, disorienting "middle" of the life of faith. In the middle, you feel alone, a little bored, confused about which direction to go, even unsure you're capable of going in any direction. This is beautifully written I read this in one afternoon. While my life is very different than Winner's (I am older, married, have kids, do not have a Ph.D. or even a traditional job, and have never particularly loved church, although I still go every week), I reacted viscerally to the idea of being in the listless, disorienting "middle" of the life of faith. In the middle, you feel alone, a little bored, confused about which direction to go, even unsure you're capable of going in any direction. This is beautifully written, and she manages to write about her divorce in a very discreet way that doesn't reveal too much about the marriage itself or lay blame at anyone's feet but her own. Yet she still conveys the raw grief of her sense that she failed at marriage.
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  • Kaylea
    January 1, 1970
    I became acquainted with Lauren F. Winner a few years ago when I found her spiritual memoir, Girl Meets God.That book recounts her faith journey which includes being raised Jewish, a conversion to Orthodox Judaism (her mom wasn't Jewish, and the faith is passed through the mother), and then later, her conversion to Christianity.Winner's authentic, honest and blunt writing style, along with her faith journey captured my attention.So when her newest release, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, cam I became acquainted with Lauren F. Winner a few years ago when I found her spiritual memoir, Girl Meets God.That book recounts her faith journey which includes being raised Jewish, a conversion to Orthodox Judaism (her mom wasn't Jewish, and the faith is passed through the mother), and then later, her conversion to Christianity.Winner's authentic, honest and blunt writing style, along with her faith journey captured my attention.So when her newest release, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, came across my path earlier this spring, I jumped at a chance to read it.This memoir opens in the "middle" of Winner's spiritual life. Her marriage has failed, her mother has died, and life isn't quite what she anticipated. But instead of turning away from her faith, Winner found herself turning back to church and to God.Part of the book follows the church calendar, so Winner's essays use seasons like epiphany and lent to provide a unique rhythm to her writing.I specifically enjoyed/connected with the essays written around Lent (maybe because I was reading the book at the start of the season).In one, Winner jokes about what she would give up during Lent. A friend suggests she give up anxiety.Another essay, focuses on busyness. I loved this quote: "Laziness might have been a problem for nineteen hundred years, but not anymore. Business is the new sloth." I appreciated how this quote - and the way Winner fleshed it out - made me think.I've heard that some people have criticized Winner for being open about her struggles with her faith (and being honest about her divorce).I am not one of those people.I'm grateful that Winner is honest. I identify (and struggle) with many of the things she writes about. I appreciate the integrity she pours into her writing.Reading Still has made me want to go back and pick up Mudhouse Sabbath - a book of spiritual practices for Christians which can be gleaned from the Jewish faith.On a scale of one to five, I give this book a solid five. It's a genuine pursuit of faith.
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  • Emily Goldberg
    January 1, 1970
    This book is advertised as exploring what happens at a crisis of faith, when one reaches the "middle" of the spiritual life and feels stuck, or bored, or unsure whether or not to continue. It does not do so in any way that needed to be published.Lauren Winner is an engaging and gifted writer. Her prose is easy to read and in many places beautiful. However, this story really was not helpful. As others have said, the VAST majority of it was just her self-centered introspection. Not the kind of int This book is advertised as exploring what happens at a crisis of faith, when one reaches the "middle" of the spiritual life and feels stuck, or bored, or unsure whether or not to continue. It does not do so in any way that needed to be published.Lauren Winner is an engaging and gifted writer. Her prose is easy to read and in many places beautiful. However, this story really was not helpful. As others have said, the VAST majority of it was just her self-centered introspection. Not the kind of introspection that lends itself to growth and wisdom, but the kind that just comes across as navel-gazing.There are many books for the spiritual life that cover this theme far better. Even on desolation, on wrestling with God, or finding yourself not even wanting to wrestle with God anymore.I do not mean this as an attack on the pain Ms. Winner must have felt following her divorce, the death of her mother, or her spiritual crisis and dryness. But I see very little to recommend here for others.
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  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    I reviewed this for The United Methodist Reporter. What I'll say here is that she's better trained as a theologian than Anne Lamott, but not nearly as outrageous and funny. Still, a good read, and informative. I think I'll like her better when she's a bit more aged.
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  • Sally
    January 1, 1970
    My own "middles" are very different from the author's "middles," but still, I loved, and learned so much from, this book. Beautiful, genuine, resonant voice.
  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I'm having trouble sticking with this one right now. I think I will set it aside for a bit and come back to it later.
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    Today I finished a wonderful, shortish book that took me several weeks to read. Don’t get me wrong, I was not reading this book for several weeks, I read it OVER several weeks.In between bursts, longer or shorter, of this, I read several other books. Mostly Regency romances, for which I have a huge weakness. While I live life in jeans and t-shirts and am not good ton, I am partial to a good Regency romp.Okay, back to the decidedly non-Regency, more meaningful (is there anything more lowering tha Today I finished a wonderful, shortish book that took me several weeks to read. Don’t get me wrong, I was not reading this book for several weeks, I read it OVER several weeks.In between bursts, longer or shorter, of this, I read several other books. Mostly Regency romances, for which I have a huge weakness. While I live life in jeans and t-shirts and am not good ton, I am partial to a good Regency romp.Okay, back to the decidedly non-Regency, more meaningful (is there anything more lowering that being told a book is meaningful?) and enjoyable Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner. This is the same Lauren Winner who wrote Girl Meets God, about her youthful conversions, first to Orthodox Judaism and then to Christianity. In this book, she’s several years down the road, in life and faith. And instead of that young graduate student who was passionately, madly, ON FIRE in love with Jesus and her faith, she is closer to middle age and she is struggling.Winner and I are alike in some ways. We are both Southern women (she’s from North Carolina and Virginia). We both like to read A LOT. We probably live too much inside our own minds and overthink everything. We are both nervy and struggle with anxiety and doubt.She’s scholarly, and more well-read in the classics than I am, though I probably know more than she does about cooking and trashy romance novels. She arrived at a life of faith from a hunger for it, while I was born into the Christian faith and raised in (and sometimes at) the church. She mentions in this book that she is more well-read on books ABOUT the Bible than she is on the actual book itself, while I grew up hearing Bible stories in Sunday school and reading the Bible every week. (I rarely listened to a sermon as a child, I was usually reading the Bible, especially the naughty stories, full of sex and violence!) Winner seems like a person I would like to know, and through her writing I feel like I have a literary friend.Winner wrote this when she was struggling out of a long, dark unhappy time. First, her mother died after a grueling bout with cancer, and then she struggled through five years of marriage that just did not work for her. She gives relatively few details about her ex-husband or why she was so unhappy, just that somehow the marriage stifled her and left her in a dark, dry place in her soul and in her spiritual life. Still was written as things were getting better, as she saw a light in the darkness, so in many ways I feel it is a hopeful book, but it is one that acknowledges that during bad moments, even hope is hard.In my 30s had a terrible time in my life, the worst time I can remember, and I struggled with things that Winner reflects on in Still. I was depressed/anxious, in chronic physical pain and some days the only thing that kept me alive was grim determination and my dogs. For them, if for no other reason, I got out of bed every day. I was not filled with faith, with hope that things would get better, and I was sure not “leaning on the promises that cannot fail.” I didn’t feel spiritual and my suffering was not ennobling or enriching. I just put one foot in front of the other, hopeless, pissed off with how things were going, mad at life and God and the universe.If I had read this book back then, it might have helped. Even if all it did was tell me that sometimes showing up, even with a crummy attitude, and holding on by your fingertips, if that is all you can do, is enough. God can work with angry prayers, and hopelessness, and coming to church just so you could go out to lunch with people who reminded you that you were loved.Even while I was living through my personal Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, and it felt like faith was just a dry and dusty thing (and God was Very. Far. Away.) I had a God-shaped space in my life. Winner encourages people who are not feeling full of faith that it’s not necessarily the feelings that are important, but what you do while you wait that makes up the better part of faith.Excellent book, and more relevant, to me, than GMG.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    This one just wasn't for me. Although, it's a little difficult to say exactly why. Winner is a gifted writer, but I found this book very ... careful. Too careful, I guess, at least in the more narrative sections of the book. There's flashes of risk and the "fierce honesty" promised by the advertising copy, but these are few and far between. Winner suggests that this book isn't a memoir in her introduction, but it is very "memoir-ish" (especially "Part 1") and I wonder if the book would have been This one just wasn't for me. Although, it's a little difficult to say exactly why. Winner is a gifted writer, but I found this book very ... careful. Too careful, I guess, at least in the more narrative sections of the book. There's flashes of risk and the "fierce honesty" promised by the advertising copy, but these are few and far between. Winner suggests that this book isn't a memoir in her introduction, but it is very "memoir-ish" (especially "Part 1") and I wonder if the book would have been stronger if she had cut that memoir lifeline entirely, and maybe tried a different (riskier, for her, given her comfort with the genre) structure or form. On my reading the book really is a memoir but Winner didn't want to write a memoir, and I don't find that tension interesting, or feel like Winner quite managed to resolve it in a satisfying way. Again though, it seems most readers (better readers than me - Rowan Williams was a fan based on the blurb) liked this book much more than I did. I did like this line: I am one of those overeducated library types who might be expected to look down her nose at self-help books—but the whole bookstore is a self-help section to me. When something needs to be fixed, when I need something to change, my first and abiding instinct is to read. I think I can read my way to a solution. Or at least an evasion.
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  • Brenda
    January 1, 1970
    Hmmm... a mixed bag for me. I enjoy Lauren Winner's writing, but found the subtitle of "notes on a mid-faith crisis" to be an overstatement for me. More like a faith slow-down after a hard decision, maybe. Overall, I think it just wasn't the right book for me at this particular time.
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  • Jim
    January 1, 1970
    `These middle verbs, it seems to me, are religious; they are the very actions that constitute a religious life; to forgive, to imagine, to grow, to yearn to lament, to meet, to kneel. To have one’s body doused in the waters of baptism. To ponder.All of which suggests to me that the middle is the language of spirituality, of devotion, the language of religious choreography…it is the voice that tells you that I am changed when I do these things and that there is something about me that allows thes `These middle verbs, it seems to me, are religious; they are the very actions that constitute a religious life; to forgive, to imagine, to grow, to yearn to lament, to meet, to kneel. To have one’s body doused in the waters of baptism. To ponder.All of which suggests to me that the middle is the language of spirituality, of devotion, the language of religious choreography…it is the voice that tells you that I am changed when I do these things and that there is something about me that allows these happenings to happen; and yet it is a voice that insists that there is another agent at work, another agent always vivifying the action, even when unnamed.”I am so glad that someone has written about the “middles” of one’s faith. Much has been written about helping people come to faith and what I consider the early stages of faith but outside of simply reading scripture, praying, going to worship, fellowshipping and serving, little, if anything, has been written about navigating the middles we encounter in our lives and in our faith. Winner has provided a unique and helpful set of snapshots that reveals her journey through crisis in light of her failed marriage and the crisis of faith it created.I say snapshots because that is what they are. Snapshots. Snapshots of where she went, what she did and did not do, as she navigated the middle of her life, a life that was turned upside down. Still: Notes on a mid-Faith Crisis, is not a `how to’ book. This is a wonderful pictorial directory of how one person, walking in and through the middle of a crisis and life, began to rediscover her faith in and with God. If you are looking for a how to book, you need to look elsewhere. But I would advise you to read Winners’ book. Those of you who like first person narrative accounts will probably like this book. (By the way, you might want to read the q and a that appears in the back of the book before you read this (Sorry, Lauren) as it might help you before you start reading.)Winner is a well read person and so there are numerous literary allusions that fill this book. Don’t let them throw you off. Worship shows up. Bible reading and reflection return. Baptism is a part her story. But this book is written by one who sought answers in familiar places and routines and ultimately returned to, and I think was found by, God as she kept moving forward.Her description of middles as places where the strategy is developed is very helpful here. And I think those who are in the midst of their middles will find it helpful. It serves as a reminder that a life of faith is not a mindless thing but one that requires diligent attention to the `how’ as well as the `why.’I liked this book because it adds what I consider a missing part of Christian discipleship- navigating the middle of faith when there are dangers of dryness and losing faith but also where significant growth occurs. I think Winner’s willingness to share her pain and confusion with us is a wonderful reminder that life and faith are not always mountain top experiences.In my very unscientific rating system, I give this book 4.5 starts. It is a great book that requires more than one reading.Note: I received an advance reader’s copy of this book via the Amazon Vine review program and I was not required to offer a positive review of the book. It will be published in February 2012 by Harper One.
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  • Stephen
    January 1, 1970
    Man how does one review a book like this?Let me start with Dr. Winner has written some things that have provided me with some great theologically underpinnings. Her Book Real Sex gave me a better theology for single-ness as a single Youth Minister. She is a writer that I love to read, and usually her writings leave me going off on tangents in my own mind.This book is in a lot of ways mirrored in a poem that Winner reads for her family, a grappling with hope/faith in the midst of struggle/despair Man how does one review a book like this?Let me start with Dr. Winner has written some things that have provided me with some great theologically underpinnings. Her Book Real Sex gave me a better theology for single-ness as a single Youth Minister. She is a writer that I love to read, and usually her writings leave me going off on tangents in my own mind.This book is in a lot of ways mirrored in a poem that Winner reads for her family, a grappling with hope/faith in the midst of struggle/despair. Her transparency is this book is in many ways raw, as she struggles with the aftermath of her mother's death and the end of her marriage. I often found myself feeling the way I do when I read Ecclesiastes, lament-full yet resonating with the ideas written.I am sure this will be a hit or miss book for people, but there are some real moments of depth here. Discussions of the middle places of life. I love the section/chapter discussing the Hidden-ness of Esther, and also of God. I would say if you appreciate the anguish yet truth that comes with reading Ecclesiastes, you will enjoy this book. I did, and my person still anguishes with Lauren and resonates with her wrestlings in this book. I recommend.(The Poem Lauren Recites)W.S. Merwin:Listenwith the night falling we are saying thank youwe are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railingswe are running out of the glass roomswith our mouths full of food to look at the skyand say thank youwe are standing by the water looking outin different directions.back from a series of hospitals back from a muggingafter funerals we are saying thank youafter the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank youlooking up from tables we are saying thank youin a culture up to its chin in shameliving in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank youover telephones we are saying thank youin doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevatorsremembering wars and the police at the back doorand the beatings on stairs we are saying thank youin the banks that use us we are saying thank youwith the crooks in office with the rich and fashionableunchanged we go on saying thank you thank youwith the animals dying around usour lost feelings we are saying thank youwith the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us like the earth we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank youwe are saying thank you and wavingdark though it is
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  • Kathleen (Kat) Smith
    January 1, 1970
    In her critically-acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, Lauren F. Winner explores her religious identity as she made the transition from Judaism to Christianity. A thought-provoking glimpse into 21st century religion, Winner was praised as "insatiable, and dauntless, in her search for religious truth at whatever the personal cost" by the New York Times.In Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren offers readers a quietly powerful and fiercely honest exploration of love, loss and what it means to lan In her critically-acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, Lauren F. Winner explores her religious identity as she made the transition from Judaism to Christianity. A thought-provoking glimpse into 21st century religion, Winner was praised as "insatiable, and dauntless, in her search for religious truth at whatever the personal cost" by the New York Times.In Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren offers readers a quietly powerful and fiercely honest exploration of love, loss and what it means to land at the "middle stage" of the spiritual life. Taking her spiritual quest even deeper, she navigates difficult new terrain as she confronts the spiritual aftermath of personal tragedy.At a time of crisis - grieving her mother's death, navigating a painful divorce - Lauren finds that she is mourning her faith as well. She hasn't lost sight of God entirely, but she's watching him gradually fade away. She offers us a "picture of the end of darkness, of the stumbling out of the darkness into something new."I received Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis compliments of Authors On The Web for my honest review and have to say, no matter where we are at in our religious beliefs, we've all come to a place where we find ourselves in the middle. Whether we are waiting on answers for prayer, looking for water in the desert when we find ourselves parched and searching, we all hit our dry spells. This is just the point that Lauren takes the readers into her personal life. Between experiencing the newness of finding God and the moment when we find ourselves just accepting life as it is, until we can find our way back to God at some point. An interesting look at something most Christians don't share in their walk with others this is a refreshing look at things from a different perspective not often talked about and for that reason I rate this a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    I have loved several of Lauren Winner’s other books, especially her conversion memoir “Girl Meets God,” so I was very curious about “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.” Written out of the spiritual torment she faced grieving her mother’s death and doubting her faith in a difficult marriage resulting in an (admittedly) unjustifiable divorce, Winner tells her raw story of doubt and faith. Many times, it seemed that her “journal-entryish” writing (like CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” but a bit more I have loved several of Lauren Winner’s other books, especially her conversion memoir “Girl Meets God,” so I was very curious about “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.” Written out of the spiritual torment she faced grieving her mother’s death and doubting her faith in a difficult marriage resulting in an (admittedly) unjustifiable divorce, Winner tells her raw story of doubt and faith. Many times, it seemed that her “journal-entryish” writing (like CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” but a bit more organized) left me feeling emotionally brutalized along with her – doubt is a painful thing, and it hurt to read about, too. In both knowing personally that Christian marriage is not all picnics and rainbows, and walking alongside a dear friend in the aftermath of marital dissolution, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the trauma Winner faced after leaving her husband. I don’t know the whole story behind that, but I do know she reflected on those grave choices with honesty and renewed faith. It’s not as though she can go back and change it, and I am grateful God meets us where we are instead of where we should be. In many ways, this book reminds us that life is tough and God, though sometimes hard to understand, is good. Although it came across as "whiny" on a regular basis, Winner writes with a haunting narrative voice and her words are thought-provoking in some ways I didn’t expect. For that reason I think it deserves mention here.
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  • Karen Blinn
    January 1, 1970
    I stumbled onto this book at my local library and decided to read it as the topic of "Notes on a mid-faith crisis" sounded like an interesting one. And, indeed, that proved to be the case. Lauren Winner is a professor at Duke Divinity School and may, by this time, also be an ordained Episcopalian priest. She was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity at around the age of twenty-one. (An experience detailed in Girl Meets God, a book that I would like to read.) Two events toppled her from the I stumbled onto this book at my local library and decided to read it as the topic of "Notes on a mid-faith crisis" sounded like an interesting one. And, indeed, that proved to be the case. Lauren Winner is a professor at Duke Divinity School and may, by this time, also be an ordained Episcopalian priest. She was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity at around the age of twenty-one. (An experience detailed in Girl Meets God, a book that I would like to read.) Two events toppled her from the mountaintop of her conversion experience to the depths of a faith struggle--the death of her mother and her marriage shortly thereafter. Her marriage never quite seemed to take, and the marriage eventually died, too. Throughout her marriage, her faith withered on her vine. This book begins just as she starts her long climb out of her personal pit of despair. What she discovers is that the time we spend in "the middle" of our faith journey is the part that endures the longest. The conversion high and the eventual entrance into glory both constitute fairly brief experiences in ones faith journey. The time in the middle is what will make or break a Christian. This concept does not receive much attention so this is a welcome meditation on what surely must be a common situation faced by Christians everywhere. Highly recommended.
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  • Susan Barnes
    January 1, 1970
    Lauren Winner's first book, Girl Meets God is the story of her conversion to Christian faith from a Jewish background. This book, Still, is "notes on a mid-faith crisis" and is a collection of thoughts, stories, poems and quotes from a period of time when Lauren's faith wavered. The crisis was brought on by the death of her mother and the failure of her five year marriage. She had married three weeks after her mother died and I wonder if grief had more of an impact on her marriage than she ackno Lauren Winner's first book, Girl Meets God is the story of her conversion to Christian faith from a Jewish background. This book, Still, is "notes on a mid-faith crisis" and is a collection of thoughts, stories, poems and quotes from a period of time when Lauren's faith wavered. The crisis was brought on by the death of her mother and the failure of her five year marriage. She had married three weeks after her mother died and I wonder if grief had more of an impact on her marriage than she acknowledges. Lauren makes the comment that mostly during this crisis of faith she went to church by habit which is possibly the thing that kept her from losing her faith altogether. The book resolves towards the end with Lauren coming to a deeper place of faith but also realizing that she is on a spiritual journey which may have further highs and lows.Although some parts of the book puzzled me, I also found it genuinely interesting as it's such an honest and often blunt account of her emotional upheaval during a difficult period of her life. I found much in the book I could relate to and I'm sure others going through a similar crisis of faith will find it helpful.An insightful read.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    While I am no longer in a mid-faith crisis of my own, it helped me heal even further to read Lauren Winner's elegant, funny, humbled account of her own existential moment in "the middle." I was dissatisfied with the ending, however - we had been on a journey, but I'm not sure we ever arrived anywhere. Maybe that's part of the point, but it was frustrating all the same. When I finished the book, I realized the book didn't really explore the visceral depths of Winner's dark night of the soul - but While I am no longer in a mid-faith crisis of my own, it helped me heal even further to read Lauren Winner's elegant, funny, humbled account of her own existential moment in "the middle." I was dissatisfied with the ending, however - we had been on a journey, but I'm not sure we ever arrived anywhere. Maybe that's part of the point, but it was frustrating all the same. When I finished the book, I realized the book didn't really explore the visceral depths of Winner's dark night of the soul - but that's not really her style, I suppose. Nevertheless, there were enough striking images and moments of clarity that I would recommend this book to others in "the middle." I especially appreciated the chapter on anxiety as one who suffers from it in a similar fashion; I read much of that chapter aloud to my husband in an effort to help him understand that, see?! Other people agonize all day over whether they left on the toaster oven, too!
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    I have read a couple of Lauren Winner's books before, and even when I don't agree with what she is saying, she says it so beautifully that her books are well worth reading. Still is about the "mid-faith crisis" she went through after divorcing her husband, or rather it is about how she came through that crisis to a new kind of faith. One of the things I love about her (the same is true for Ann Lamott)is that she is absolutely unafraid of exposing her own doubts, misgivings and transgressions. Sh I have read a couple of Lauren Winner's books before, and even when I don't agree with what she is saying, she says it so beautifully that her books are well worth reading. Still is about the "mid-faith crisis" she went through after divorcing her husband, or rather it is about how she came through that crisis to a new kind of faith. One of the things I love about her (the same is true for Ann Lamott)is that she is absolutely unafraid of exposing her own doubts, misgivings and transgressions. She writes without excuses about things many Christians would be petrified to expose to their Christian friends. As with Lamott, her statements about her beliefs sometimes stray into what I would consider a bit wacky, but at the heart there is a faith that holds her to the center. I would recommend definitely recommend this book.
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  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    This is the second book of Winner's that I have read recently. She claims this is not a memoir, but I believe that when you write about your faith crisis, the book has to be a memoir. There is too much of Winner in this for it not to qualify as autobiography.It has been awhile since I have experienced the "dark night of the soul". Winner reminded me of what it is like and how such a time can affect your faith life. I think this book is excellent, well written and true. I suspect that I will revi This is the second book of Winner's that I have read recently. She claims this is not a memoir, but I believe that when you write about your faith crisis, the book has to be a memoir. There is too much of Winner in this for it not to qualify as autobiography.It has been awhile since I have experienced the "dark night of the soul". Winner reminded me of what it is like and how such a time can affect your faith life. I think this book is excellent, well written and true. I suspect that I will revisit these essays if I do have doubts about my beliefs.I look forward to more of Winner's writings. She is able to talk about her own issues in a way that she sheds light on other people's lives.
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  • Esther
    January 1, 1970
    This read was both a blessing and an uncomfortable prodding, a whisper of you are not alone in your doubt but also a sense of you can't stay here, nursing your wounds . Winner keeps her prose sparse. There is plenty of white space. Ample time to be still and contemplate the universal reality of being in the middle ground, somewhere along the way, but beyond the euphoria of the great beginning and not yet in sight of the finish line. This place, where the hard work happens. What does one do wh This read was both a blessing and an uncomfortable prodding, a whisper of you are not alone in your doubt but also a sense of you can't stay here, nursing your wounds . Winner keeps her prose sparse. There is plenty of white space. Ample time to be still and contemplate the universal reality of being in the middle ground, somewhere along the way, but beyond the euphoria of the great beginning and not yet in sight of the finish line. This place, where the hard work happens. What does one do when it seems that God goes still and hides himself? Striking. A deft touch of the personal to ground her vulnerable reflections. Already on my favorites list.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this was a beautifully written and moving book. I love the poetic, rather spare writing style; I appreciated the dignified honesty; I enjoyed how her writing can make me laugh a bit in places and make my heart ache in others. And, importantly, together with some other good things happening, it guided me through a spiritually dry time in the wake of a personal loss into a sense of fruitfulness and promise.I borrowed this book from the library and thought (erroneously, it turns out) I ha I thought this was a beautifully written and moving book. I love the poetic, rather spare writing style; I appreciated the dignified honesty; I enjoyed how her writing can make me laugh a bit in places and make my heart ache in others. And, importantly, together with some other good things happening, it guided me through a spiritually dry time in the wake of a personal loss into a sense of fruitfulness and promise.I borrowed this book from the library and thought (erroneously, it turns out) I had to read through it quickly to return it on time. It really would be a good book to read slowly and thoughtfully, I think.
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  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    Some beautiful moments in this "non-memoir-that-still-reads-like-a-memoir" particularly these chapters: "in boston, theology for the middle", "reading the bible in eight places", "easter vigil" and and "a sunday morning in massachusetts". But I kept finding myself wondering what insights Winner's experience and reflection has to over the general public. Why was this book published? Her writing is engaging and I don't want to write her work off as narcissistic, but it does come across that way at Some beautiful moments in this "non-memoir-that-still-reads-like-a-memoir" particularly these chapters: "in boston, theology for the middle", "reading the bible in eight places", "easter vigil" and and "a sunday morning in massachusetts". But I kept finding myself wondering what insights Winner's experience and reflection has to over the general public. Why was this book published? Her writing is engaging and I don't want to write her work off as narcissistic, but it does come across that way at times.
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  • Kendra
    January 1, 1970
    Possibly one of my favorite books ever, and definitely among my faves this year. Extremely candid, thoughtful and helpful spiritual read. Winner says this book is not a memoir but more of a long rumination over a spiritual theme of stillness, of still showing up. I thought it borrowed some of the best parts of memoir (storytelling, authentic voice) and offered spiritual lessons that were not the same old cliched metaphors. Herein I have entered into serious fangirl territory over Lauren Winner's Possibly one of my favorite books ever, and definitely among my faves this year. Extremely candid, thoughtful and helpful spiritual read. Winner says this book is not a memoir but more of a long rumination over a spiritual theme of stillness, of still showing up. I thought it borrowed some of the best parts of memoir (storytelling, authentic voice) and offered spiritual lessons that were not the same old cliched metaphors. Herein I have entered into serious fangirl territory over Lauren Winner's writing.
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