Author:  Laura Jensen Walker
Title:  Becca by the Book
Publisher:  Zondervan

Becca Daniels epitomizes the phrase "free spirit." The book-loving "quote chick" thrives on travel, adventure, spontaneity—preferably if they all happen at the same time and with friends. But as the story opens, she finds herself unexpectedly sidelined by a broken leg suffered during—what else?—a recent skydiving experience. Forced to return to her bookstore job and listen to her girlfriends tease about her inability to commit, Becca retaliates by betting them that she would not only accept the next guy who asks her out, but also date him for three months (or 25 dates, whichever came first).

When Ben the church guy invites her to coffee, Becca begins an adventure she never thought she'd want. Navigating the unfamiliar world of Christian singles—as an unbeliever, no less—Becca finds her previous views about church to be largely validated. Potlucks, prayer meetings, and women's ministry tea functions feed her preconceived notions that, while "Jesus is cool," church people need to get a life. Yet along the way, the occasional event or person surprises her, and she eventually gains a glimpse into her life's purpose and who might be orchestrating it unseen.

Becca by the Book will have the reader laughing out loud—often! The hilarious dialogue keeps the pace brisk, as you anticipate the next humorous conversation. The author's use of first person opens up even more opportunities for laughs, as the reader enjoys access to Becca's unspoken thoughts and reactions to the situations she considers bizarre and entertaining. She manages to be sarcastic without being angry, dropping deadpanned one-liners known to provoke sudden guffaws from certain readers.

And while the humor is fun, its purpose should become very clear to Christian readers. The author draws on the philosophy of humorist Mary Hirsch, who said, "Humor is a rubber sword—it allows you to make a point without drawing blood." Walker proves herself a master at convicting and entertaining simultaneously. Take Becca's journal, the result of her frustration as she attends one event after another with her new Christian friends—and can't understand the code language they all seem to speak. She starts writing down all the phrases tossed around, giving her own definition. "The Getaway Girls Guide to Christianese" (included in the appendix of the book) goes something like this:

  • "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner" — Be judgmental in love.
  • "Saved" — Those rescued from their lives of chaos and death to enter a life of rules and regulations that feel like chaos and death.

During the three-month dating experiment, Becca does meet Christians who challenge and inspire her. While pining for the day when she can once again run, travel (and shave her leg), she dares to wonder:  What's the point of all my adventures? Where are they leading me? Could Someone be guiding this free spirit all along?
 
Laura Jensen Walker has produced a welcome addition to her popular Getaway Girls series. Chloe (Daring Chloe) and Paige (Turning the Paige) reappear, along with other girlfriends who support and challenge Becca in her search for contentment.


**This review first published on February 2, 2010.