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#265 ~ Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl by Carlene Bauer

Published by: HarperCollins

Published on: June 29, 2010

Page Count: 288

Genre: Memoir

My Reading Format: Trade paperback review copy provided by the publisher.

Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook


tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Carlene Bauer’s host on his TLC Book Tour for her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.


Summary from the Publisher

Raised in evangelical churches that preached apocalypse now, Carlene Bauer grows up happy to oblige the God who presides over her New Jersey girlhood. But in high school and college, her intellectual and spiritual horizons widen, and she becomes skeptical of the judgmental God she’s been given. Still, she finds it hard to let go of the ideals she’s been raised with, and to rebel as she knows she should. She loves rock and roll, but politely declines offers of sex and drugs; she thinks the Bible and the Norton Anthology of American Literature are equally authoritative guides to life. Since there are no churches worshipping the Jesus Paul Westerberg sang about in “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and no tidy categories for those who are neither riot grrrls nor altar girls, she hovers between a hunger for the world and a suspicion of it.

In her twenties, however, determined to make up for lost time, Bauer undertakes a belated and often comic coming-of-age in New York City. Between late blooming at parties and staying late at work, it seems that she might become as bold as she’d hoped to be—even if the late blooming is a little more hapless than highly erotic. And yet the city and its pleasures do not distract her from another hope: that she might learn how to have a faith that she can truly call her own. Enter the Catholic Church, and a conversion. But then she falls in love, and loses her religion—which leaves her wondering just what it means to be good.

Sharply written, hilarious, and touching, Not That Kind of Girl is the story of one young woman’s efforts to define worldliness, ambition, and love on her own terms—while believing in, among other things, The Smiths, Virginia Woolf, and the transformative power of New York City. Fellow restless seekers will find solace in Bauer’s struggle to create meaning in the face of overwhelming doubt, and fall in love with the highly original voice at the center of this unforgettable debut.

My Review

All things pointed to me loving Not That Kind of Girl, a spiritual memoir by Carlene Bauer.  She tells of her upbringing in an evangelical Christian home, her conversion to Catholicism, and ultimately letting go of God and her inner good-girl. I’m intersted in the stories of those who grew up in an evangelical household because it’s so much different than my own, Catholic upbringing. That she later chose to become Catholic made me want to find out why.  Once I started reading, I discovered that we are roughly the same age and that we share very similar musical tastes and influences I became even more excited. While very well written, Not That Kind of Girl did not work well for me. Bauer is extremely intelligent and is logical in the examination of her spiritual history. It’s just that cerebral approach that kept me at an arm’s distance.  She provided intellectual arguments for who she was and the choices she made, but she doesn’t let her readers see into her heart.

While very different memoirs, Not That Kind of Girl reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love.  In both memoirs, I felt that the author were prone to over-analyzing.  In tone, this memoir reminded me of The Mistress’ Daughter.  Both are well written memoirs, but with a cynical edge that made the authors remote and untouchable.  That’s not why I read memoirs.  I read them because I want to share in another person’s experiences, be they delightful or terrifying.  It’s a way of connecting to others and consider my own life.  I just wasn’t able to get that close this time.

Because of the potential it had at the start, I wish that I had enjoyed this memoir more.  I have always been curious evangelical churches.  To someone used to the same routine week in and week out, those services seem so alive.  Having attended many such services over the years, they just haven’t clicked with me.  As lively as they are, they’ve never clicked with my soul the way the Mass has as I’ve grown older and matured.  I really wanted to know why Ms. Bauer left and joined the Catholic Church.  In the end, I never really understood.  She related to Dorothy Day and her conversion.  She liked the Liberation Theology and the focus on social justice.  Still, knowing about the history of the Church and the sexual abuse scandals, she converts.  Shortly thereafter, she finds herself unable to sit through Mass thinking about what the priest might have done, might have thought to do, or might have covered up.  Without the emotional connection to the author, it all seemed hollow.

I am glad that Ms. Bauer is happy with her life in New York and with the spiritual choices she’s made.  Perhaps her memoir would be more up your alley, though.  If you’d be interested in reading Not That Kind of Girl, I would be happy to send you my gently read copy.  Leave a comment here letting me know.  I’ll use my favorite Randomizer to select the lucky reader.

Please be sure to check out the rest of the stops on this tour:

Thursday, July 1st: Tales of a Capricious Reader

Tuesday, July 6th: The Book Nest

Monday, July 12th: Drey’sLibrary

Wednesday, July 14th: As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

Thursday, July 15th: she reads and reads

Tuesday, July 20th: Heart 2 Heart

Friday, July 23rd: Knowing the Difference

Monday, July 26th: Bookshipper

Tuesday, July 27th: Life In Pink

Wednesday, July 28th: my books. my life.

Thursday, July 29th: Suko’s Notebook

Friday, July 30th: A Fair Substitute for Heaven

Monday, August 2nd: A Certain Bent Appeal

Wednesday, August 4th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

8 Comments

  • At 2010.06.29 11:34, Kristen said:

    Sorry this didn’t work all that well for you. I’m still interested in reading it but maybe I’ll temper my expectations a bit.

    • At 2010.06.29 15:41, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      Oh, you have to see into the author’s heart for a memoir to work.

      Read more from bermudaonion (Kathy)

      Review: The Weight of Blood

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      • At 2010.06.29 16:16, Sandy said:

        That is really too bad, but you do often find memoirs that just aren’t that open. I converted to Catholicism when I was in my early 30’s, so the general plot would have drawn me in as well. No need to enter me!

        • At 2010.07.01 14:36, trish said:

          Even though this didn’t end up rocking your world, you’ve made me excited for the tour! I find it interesting that you didn’t feel the author let you in to her heart, so I’m wondering if others will feel the same? I’ll be interested in who loves this and who doesn’t!

          Thanks for being on this tour!

          Read more from trish

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          • At 2010.07.01 15:35, Johanna said:

            The premise of this book also caught my interest, but having read the review and comments, I wonder if Carlene Bauer has not quite reached the end of her search because her heart is still divided between the excitement of the world that calls her and the Spirit who still echoes within, and so she can rationalize and intellectualize but cannot freely give her heart. I think the key to a good memoir is vulnerablility; one cannot be vulnerable while one is busy guarding the city gates.
            For those of you who have written, I would like to invite you to find a chair under a canopy of trees these summer days and read Graffiti On My Soul, also just published. John J. Cleary of Ligouri Publications says of it: ` Without a doubt this is an impassioned work, beautiful and touching, inspired and faith filled`. Said to be better than The Shack, and from a Catholic perspective, it is the true story of a girl who enters monastic life at seventeen, but leaves to marry, later finding herself and her five children at the mercy of a relative who is either psychopathic or demonically possessed.

            • At 2010.07.01 23:19, Lisa said:

              I’m on the fence about this one. You’re right, a memoir should provide a look into the author’s heart–otherwise it’s just an autobiography.

              • At 2010.07.02 09:13, A Bookshelf Monstrosity said:

                I’ll take a stab at this one and throw my name in the hat for the drawing. Thanks!

                • At 2010.07.04 11:11, Aths said:

                  This one did interest me initially too, but I wasn’t sure if it will work for me. After reading your review, I think I will give it a pass, or keep it in the back of my head. Great thoughtful review!

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