The Life is Story Awards
2022 was a banner year for Life is Story. We published over 350 reviews and had almost 2.5 million pageviews. Here’s the best of the best from 2022!
The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels (Revell)
When Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather’s old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader that’s keeping her from writing her next novel as long as its claims go unanswered. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend’s brother–and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book–in order to prove to herself that she told the truth as all good novelists should.
What she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. Facing Tyler isn’t easy, but facing the truth of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels searches the heart with this lyrical exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgiveable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.
Drawn in Ash by John Otte (Geeky Grace)
The Dynasty claims to be a veritable paradise where a multitude of races live in peace and harmony. Everys knows better. The Dynasty has been broken since it was founded, with the human nobility oppressing many of the peoples they’ve brutally conquered, including her own. As an illegal mage, for Everys to stand up to the injustice would mean risking her life, so she hides in a rundown corner of the capital city, content to live in obscurity. But then she is brought to the palace and forced to marry Kind Narius, the descendant of the tyrant who destroyed her people’s homeland. Maybe this is the chance she’s been waiting for to make things right.
Due to sacred law, Narius has to be married for his reign to be legitimate. He can’t marry the woman he actually loves, so he has to settle for another. Unfortunately, the young woman he chose seems determined to cause him nothing but trouble.
Thrown together by circumstances they can’t control, Everys and Narius must set aside old grudges and painful legacies to forge an uneasy partnership before the Dynasty’s enemies destroy everything they hold dear.
The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright (Bethany House)
In 1910 Michigan, Perliett VanHilton is a self-proclaimed rural healer, leaving the local doctor, George Wasziak, convinced she practices quackery. It doesn’t help that her mother, Maribeth VanHilton, is a Spiritualist who regularly offers her services to help others speak to their dearly departed. But when Perliett is targeted by a superstitious killer, she relies on both George and an intriguing newcomer for help.
Perliett fights for her life, and Molly seeks renewed purpose for hers as she uncovers the records of the dead. Will their voices be heard, or will time silence their truths forever?
My Body is Not a Prayer Request by Amy Kenny (Brazos Press)
The church has forgotten that we worship a disabled God whose wounds survived resurrection, says Amy Kenny. It is time for the church to start treating disabled people as full members of the body of Christ who have much more to offer than a miraculous cure narrative and to learn from their embodied experiences.
Written by a disabled Christian, this book shows that the church is missing out on the prophetic witness and blessing of disability. Kenny reflects on her experiences inside the church to expose unintentional ableism and cast a new vision for Christian communities to engage disability justice. She shows that until we cultivate church spaces where people with disabilities can fully belong, flourish, and lead, we are not valuing the diverse members of the body of Christ.
Offering a unique blend of personal storytelling, fresh and compelling writing, biblical exegesis, and practical application, this book invites readers to participate in disability justice and create a more inclusive community in church and parachurch spaces. Engaging content such as reflection questions and top-ten lists are included.
The Road Away from God by Jonathan Martin (Baker Books)
It’s no easy journey disentangling the good news of the gospel from the toxic theologies that have rendered Jesus unrecognizable. It’s no wonder the church has sent many walking.
In The Road Away from God, Jonathan Martin reimagines Luke’s story of two disillusioned disciples walking the Emmaus road away from the holy city where they had watched their hope die a gruesome death right before their eyes.
For anyone who is feeling their faith unravel, reckoning with religious trauma, or walking the long road of deconstruction, Martin speaks compassionate hope into the journey of today’s disillusioned disciples, revealing that the resurrected Christ is profoundly present with them–even on what seems to be the road away from God.
With “a pastor’s heart and poet’s touch,” as Rachel Held Evans once wrote of Martin, this is a book to help you feel seen in your spiritual journey and all its complexities, and to find resurrection even where you least expect it.
Attached to God by Krispin Mayfield (Zondervan)
Why does God feel so far away? The reason–and the solution–is in your attachment style.
We all experience moments when God’s love and presence are tangible. But we also experience feeling utterly abandoned by God. Why?
The answer is found when you take a deep look at the other important relationships in your life and understand your attachment style. Through his years working in trauma recovery programs, extensive research into attachment science, and personal experiences with spiritual striving and abuse, licensed therapist Krispin Mayfield has learned to answer the question: Why do I feel so far from God?
When you understand your attachment style you gain a whole new paradigm for a secure and loving relationship with God. You’ll gain insights about:
How you relate to others–both your strengths and weaknessesThe practical exercises you can use to grow a secure spiritual attachment to GodHow to move forward on the spirituality spectrum and experience the Divine connection we all were created forYou’ll learn to identify and remove mixed messages about closeness with God that you may have heard in church or from well-meaning Christians. With freedom from the past, you can then chart a new path toward intimate connection with the God of the universe.
Gaslighted by God by Tiffany Yecke Brooks (Eerdmans)
“We have a right to encounter God where we are. We have a sacred responsibility to experience God authentically.”
What happens when the God we’ve been taught to believe in seems powerless to help us in the struggles of life? What do we do when the God we personally encounter no longer resembles the God we’ve been shown in narrow interpretations of the Bible?
Many of those raised in the world of fundamentalist Christianity have been manipulated into accepting a false reality that runs counter to lived experience. The result is confusion, isolation, fear, shame, and trauma, often carried throughout one’s entire life. This book is for the victims of this spiritual abuse—anyone looking to reclaim their faith from legalism, nationalism, sexism, anxiety, intolerance, and other mechanisms of control utilized by God’s self-appointed gatekeepers. It’s for anyone who has learned that the real God is infinitely complex, that authentic faith is perfectly compatible with doubt, and that our suffering is not something we’ve earned.
Gaslighted by God is not a book of easy answers—it’s a companion for those mourning the loss of a belief system who need their pain recognized and legitimized. Tiffany Yecke Brooks shows—through stories from her own life, conversations with Christians from a variety of backgrounds, historical anecdotes, and messy episodes from Scripture—that there can be faith after disillusionment. But it will be a different faith—bruised, battered, nuanced, and real, rather than one wrapped in tissue-thin platitudes and three-point sermons. It will be a faith empowered to see beyond who God “should” be to who God is.
Jesus Takes a Side by Jonny Rashid (Herald Press)
Jesus sides with the oppressed. Will you?
In a world divided by left and right, red and blue, many Christians have upheld a “third way” approach in pursuit of moderation, harmony, and unity. But if Christians are more concerned with divisiveness than with faithfulness, we have failed to grasp the gospel’s political demands. We do not see Jesus taking a “third way” between oppressor and oppressed. And as followers of Jesus, neither should we.
For the sake of our faith, for the sake of the least of these among us, and for Christ’s sake, Christians need to stand firmly for truth, peace, and justice. In Jesus Takes a Side, author Jonny Rashid lays out the political demands of following Jesus and offers strategies for how to engage politics practically and prophetically—even if it means taking a side.
it’s so difficult by Guridi (Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers)
A school day can be so overwhelming: so many people, so many noises, so many things to remember. Grown-ups say it’ll get easier with time, but even saying hello is incredibly hard. Thank goodness for comforts like math, for anything that can relax a restless mind. Maybe this time a few words will come out at last…An empathetic look at anxiety and overstimulation, It’s So Difficult follows a child throughout the challenging routines of a single day. Even the smallest step forward can be an enormous triumph.
Mother God by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, illustrated by Khoa Le (Beaming Books)
You know God the Father, but God is your Mother too.
With lyrical, rhyming text and exquisite illustrations, Mother God introduces readers to a dozen images of God inspired by feminine descriptions from Scripture. Children and adults alike will be in awe of the God who made them as they come to know her as a creative seamstress, generous baker, fierce mother bear, protective mother hen, strong woman in labor, nurturing nursing mother, wise grandmother, and comforting singer of lullabies.
This gorgeous picture book welcomes children into a fuller, more diverse understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God.
God’s Holy Darkness by Sharei Green and Beckah Selnick, illustrated by Nikki Faison (Beaming Books)
In God’s Holy Darkness, Sharei Green and Beckah Selnick deconstruct anti-Blackness in Christian theology by celebrating instances in the story of God’s people when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good, and holy. From the darkness at the beginning of creation to the blackness of the sky on the day when Christ’s birth was announced to the shepherds, children learn that blackness is something to celebrate as an important element of the life of faith. Lush and vibrant illustrations by artist Nicolette Peñaranda underscore the mystery and beauty of these wondrous acts of God’s holy darkness.
Perfect for reading and anti-racist reflection in worship, as an affirmation and celebration with children, and at home with caregivers, God’s Holy Darkness is a gift to cherish.
The King of Christmas (FatCat #2) by Todd Hains, illustrated by Natasha Kennedy
All God’s Children Search for Jesus “The star of the King of Christmas! Where will we find him?”
Inspired by the story of the magi and Mary’s Magnificat and featuring a family prayer, The King of Christmas invites children and families to share the joy of searching for Jesus during Advent.
Join FatCat and the wise men as they follow the light of the Christmas star, journeying over sea and field, through market and temple, to find the King of Christmas. In each place they look, a new friend joins their search.
The journey doesn’t end at the manger. Once the magi and their lively cast of friends and friendly beasts find Jesus at the nativity scene, they ask where else he can be found. On the cross? In the tomb?
And where do we find the King of Christmas today? In his word, where he promises to be found. Wherever his name and word are, you will find him too. Merry Christmas to all God’s children!
The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones by Joanna Rivard and Tim Penner
Starting at the very beginning with the creation story and including Biblical heroes like Abraham, Moses, and David, as well as the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones tells a cohesive story of Scripture and God’s enormous love for his children. This is a valuable resource for families wanting to expose their children to the Bible from the earliest ages.
The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones is written and designed for children ages 0 to 4, includes 12 Bible stories from both the Old and New Testaments, is written in warm, simple language for the very young, and is perfect for year round holiday gift giving, baptism gifts, and more. Features a comfortable padded cover The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones helps your babies and toddlers discover who God is—the one who made everything and everyone; who we are—his children, whom he loves unconditionally; and what we were made for—to love God and everyone else.