Cover Image: English Lessons

English Lessons

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Member Reviews

I'm finished, at last. This just didn't captivate me. Seemed more like a memoir of a year at Oxford with lots about boyfriends. It didn't feel as much like the journey of faith I was expecting. I never got the feeling that Ms Lucado got very close to anyone. I missed hearing more about classes and girlfriends and the day to day happenings. I did not feel the depth I had hoped for. I am grateful to WaterBrook & Multnomah Publishers for sharing this book with me in exchange for an honest review. I'm sorry that it was just not my cup of tea.
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Enjoyed the look at this author's life.   Hope to hear more from her
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In my excitement to read Andrea Lucado’s book, I’m a frequent reader of her father’s, I skipped a key word on the back cover…memoir! In my mind’s eye, I anticipated a logical thread running from beginning to end building to a conclusion …it is, in fact, a meandering, anecdotal recounting of Andrea’s time in Oxford and how it asked her tough questions. Each chapter has a central story to which a question is tied and I related to several of the questions as I am similar in age to Andrea, no Oxford required, life challenges our faith and the clarity of our belief. I enjoyed the “Me too!” moments, laughed at the American meets British culture shocks but, it was a long haul to the end of the book. I am impressed though, as far as first books go, I think Andrea did a great job! I particularly enjoyed Chapter 8’s discussion about secular art in religion, I hope the future holds more books from Andrea with this thought provoking and engaging style! It’s a solid three on the enjoyment scale for me.

A few favourite quotes:

“Even when it looks like it, even when it feels like it, no one is really doing this faith thing alone. No one can do it along. We simply wouldn’t be able to find our way.”

“What helped me that day, more than the details of the lecture, was a man who had gone before, who had asked these same questions and had somehow logically found the answers. And this confidence that lay in someone else’s confidence comforted me greatly.”

“If you get nothing else from this book, please hear this: instant coffee is not coffee. And I would rather drink the hot water by itself, thank you.”

“I learned that I can’t limit God’s presence in the arts, or anywhere for that matter. Stories of sacrifice, death, and life can’t help but reflect Jesus in some way. It’s not up to us to decide where he is and where he is not. If the truth is there, so is he."
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I usually start with the good stuff and leave the cons for way, way down in the review (I'm a people pleaser, okay?) but I'm gonna lead with them this time because they specifically address claims made in the very first paragraph of the book's back cover blurb. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed English Lessons, I didn't ever fully get the impression that Lucado "expected to meet God" in Oxford or that she left feeling He was "much bigger than she believed." In fact, it was kind of the opposite. It seemed as though her entire year abroad taught her a great many lessons about growing up, handling relationships, and experiencing connections outside of the American Christian Church, but her doubts about who God is and His role in her life didn't appear to ever get resolved. At least not in the way this book has been marketed. Lucado left for Oxford with doubts and a desire to meet people who didn't see her as just "Max Lucado's daughter"...and seemed to go home with those same feelings, albeit with more maturity and perspective. 

Still, that doesn't stop English Lessons from making a great number of solid points about the difficulties of growing into one's faith, most of them in the second half of the narrative. On journaling about her struggles, Lucado wisely opines, "Sometimes faith comes very naturally, and sometimes everything we've ever believed is suddenly thrust under a microscope and we are forced to examine it. It's okay to look. In fact, please look. Because if you don't, what are you looking at instead?"

Good stuff. 

(I also really appreciated her ode to coffee earlier in the book. Lucado is a woman after my own heart!)

Most of all, I appreciated Lucado's current insight into personal relationships, especially as the 22-year old Lucado who experienced them was clearly as uncertain as I was in my earlier years. I think if the marketing team in charge of English Lessons had done a little more to focus on that part of Lucado's year in England, rather than prioritizing the book as a faith memoir, my expectations about this read would have been more realistic. I get that the "Max Lucado's daughter" bit makes readers—especially readers like me who, obviously, grew up reading her father's work—perk up, but it seems like Andrea has already made it pretty clear she's more than just a famous pastor's daughter.
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In English Lessons: The Crooked Path to Growing towards Faith, Andrea Lucado shares her journey of self-discovery as a graduate student in England for a year. The author yearned for freedom and a change of scenery (she mentions something to do with a break up) especially since she is the daughter of a renowned pastor and by default her childhood equalled Christianity. She draws parallels between in her life in warm sunny Texas where she felt sheltered by her strong Christian upbringing and her life phase in England that had people who shared a completely different belief system. 

To be honest, I picked up this book because I was curious to know about Andrea's perspective and her own personal journey because as she states in the book, people think that the "faith of our fathers (and mothers)" is automatically transmitted to future generations and it is not a given. There comes a time in every young person's life where they have to define their own values which sometimes may be divergent from their upbringings. For me, Andrea addresses this issue from a Christian's perspective in a raw but respectful manner. From my own living abroad experience, I have to admit that I met people from all walks of life including atheists, secularists and humanists and made me wonder if I would still lean toward Christianity if those values had not been inculcated in me from an early age. Nonetheless, I have made good friends and learnt a lot about the "give and take" dynamics of a relationship.

The tone of the book is blunt, conversational and witty to the point where I felt that she has given the reader glimpses into her journal. I tend to feel like this book was indirectly written as a journal entry. Unlike most of the Christian-faith based books that I have read before,  it was not jammed with memory verses which I found quite interesting since she was still able to deliver her core message. Though she does quote renowned Christian authors like C.S. Lewis (How could she not? She was in Oxford!)

Generally, I find it difficult to rate memoirs and personal accounts because they are just that. Personal.  There is no right or wrong way to convey one's experiences. Nonetheless, I have to admit that I highly resonated with this book since I could clearly map her experience in England on to my own during my own graduate experience abroad. 

One of the parts that made me giggle in the book is when she how felt like Starbucks was an American Embassy which is so stereotypically American.But I also recalled my own hunt for Kenyan-like tea since British/Scottish folk like their tea with lots of tea with a dash of milk. Kenyans, like Indians, love milky brewed chai. If you can add tea masala, the better.  It reminded me of how everyone seeks a sense of familiarity and belonging in a new place and sometimes, that may not be immediate and how it is important to find coping mechanisms.

The book cover and illustrations at the beginning of the chapters are absolutely stunning and do give a wonderful introduction to the introducing the readers to each section. I mean this was a definitely one of the things that made me want to pick this book from Netgalley in the first place! Hence would make a wonderful gift. Heck,  I would even buy the prints if they were available.

This would be a perfect gift to slip into your friend, sibling or child's hands just before they go studying abroad especially for an extended period of time. It would be comforting read to know that in a sense have taken a similar route and it is in a sense an opportunity to discover oneself with the glaring eyes of one's usual audiences; to answer the introspective question: who are you when no one familiar is looking.  Even though you are not studying abroad, it would also be a good and reflective book for when you are stuck in a 'spiritual' rut. I know that I am definitely going to be looking for my own personal copy.
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