Cover Image: Devout


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Member Reviews

This was an eye opening memoir that I really related to as a native Tennessean who also works in the mental health field. This was a hopeful and enlightening story of coming to terms with mental illness while living in the Bible Belt where the prescription for mental health issues is often prayer or “more faith.” This is the story of learning to reconcile your beliefs with a mental health diagnosis. For fans of Educated or those struggling with religious deconstruction.

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I am always looking for memoirs to read, and as soon as I saw the cover of “Doubt” in an offering from Simon Books, I knew I had to have it.

“Doubt” is Gazmarian’s story of reconciling her faith and her mental illness (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011). The story surprised me — I thought this would be a memoir of fleeing an evangelical church, and it isn’t that at all. It’s a memoir of vulnerability and coming to terms with the author’s illness and faith. It’s a journey, not an exposé.

The vulnerability makes this a very engrossing read. I read this at the end of last year and finished it quickly. It’s only 192 pages, and I applaud Gazmarian and her editors for keeping the book so tight. It’s a good read because there isn’t a ton of unnecessary background or off-topic anecdotes.

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This book wrestles with the way that the church--specifically conservative and evangelical spaces--addresses mental health. Gazmarian shares her journey with a BPD diagnosis and how it was received, ignored, and pushed back on by faith communities. She integrates many different stories from the Bible--both New Testament and Old Testament. I thought the story flowed and was well written. A quick read that I hope to return to and recommend to others!

One specific element that I enjoyed personally from this book is being familiar with the cities and communities that Garmarian refers to both in MI and NC!

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I’ve tried to write this review a few different times and it kept becoming an overshare of growing up Catholic and how much I related to that aspect of this author’s journey. To keep this from being too lengthy I will spare anyone reading this from my personal issues I continue to work through 😂.

I didn’t realize how religion focused this book was going to be, some of the stories the author shares from the Bible I recognized, others I didn’t, but there are sections where they’re quite detailed as she ties them to her own experiences as she manages her bi-polar diagnosis and her faith, and how her mental health is addressed by those around her in the Evangelical Community.

Some of this was tough to read. The author jumps around to different schools and various doctors, shared her experiences with the different medications she’s given, lists all the side effects, and the impact it has on her life and her ability to be a “normal” adult.

I think one thing I noticed about her journey while reading, is that despite her depression and her bi-polar disorder making her feel like she was alone, as she walks down the aisle at her wedding and leads a lecture for her MFA, at those big pivotal moments, she mentions all the people around her and how they’d helped her in someway during the hardest times.

I appreciated that as she got older, that she was able to find a church and a community that fit what she needed when it came to her faith. Some people leave their religion completely, she just needed to find the community that met her needs and shared her understanding of faith.

Overall, while this was sometimes hard to read because of the topics, it’s very well written, and not too long.

Content Warnings: Mental Illness, Suicidal Thoughts, Religious Trauma

Thank you @netgalley and @simonbooks for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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This was a really solid memoir. I resonated with A LOT of the content. The way the church treats mental illness is unacceptable and has caused so many people significant trauma.

I commend the author for sharing her story with readers. The audiobook was narrated by the author, which added another layer of depth.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the gifted copies.

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As someone who has both struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a child AND also grew up in an evangelical church, this book truly resonated with me. I really admire the author's transparency in how she deals with her Bipolar 2 diagnosis AND the blow-back she gets from both her parents and her church [CAN you even imagine being told by a pastor that you have to leave the church you are in because you are distracting a young man who had shown interest in you AND because your "mental health issues" were too much for the church to handle? I just broke down crying at that point, for her and for all those in that "church" that are being ignored and dismissed because of illness] and how she finally finds a modicum of peace and love with her husband, a new supportive caring church and her realization that her belief system was based on GOD and Him alone and not the "church" that was telling her how to live and be and behave [so grateful she found a church that not only supports her in her illness, but encourages both medication and therapy - what a wonderful thing].

While my own hurts from the church are too deep for me to even consider going back to that lifestyle, my faith in what I believe and in God, while changed somewhat, has remained firm and this book really encouraged me in in a time when I have been struggling and I am grateful for that. Seeing how the author has navigated those waters and how it has helped her, in turn helped me and that was one of the best things about this book.

This was a wonderful read with a really great end, which was unexpected. The author is open about all she has dealt and struggled with [and continues to do so; as one of her therapists told her, she will never not be able to live without medication and therapy] and shares her doubt and questions and her truths. It was very open and eye-opening and even in the midst of my current struggles, very encouraging.

Thank you to NetGalley, Anna Gazmarian, and Simon and Schuster for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Normally, I have a really hard time giving negative reviews to memoirs. If someone was brave enough to share their story, I have to give them so much credit. However, this book just missed the mark with me in a ton of ways. Gazmarian was raised in an evangelical Christian household, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during her college years. She faced some mistreatment and some internal shame about her diagnosis (since technically you should be able to 'pray the sadness away.') But for some reason, it felt like there wasn't a lot of depth to this account, even though Gazmarian was definitely suffering. She recounts not feeling like she fit into the church and she did question her faith at times, but overall, she ended up still being pretty connected to God and religion. The ending also felt super rushed - after she had a baby, she was basically fine (or at least that's how it read). Another huge turn-off for me was all of the many Bible stories she included - I felt myself kind of skimming past these, but maybe for someone who loves religion, this would have been an interesting part of the text.

I applaud Gazmarian for sharing her experiences, but I think her story would have been much more effective as an essay versus a whole book. And, it would have been way more powerful if she dug more into her evangelical roots and the church's treatment of mental health issues rather than just recounting some of her youth group days.

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Devout: A Memoir of Doubt by Anna Gazmarian is a raw and honest memoir of her experience growing up in a conservative American Evangelical church and dealing with a bipolar disorder. diagnosis that upends her world.

Her story starts when she is in college and receives a bipolar disorder diagnosis after years of unusual behaviors like manic episodes, obsessiveness, and depression. She seeks counsel from trusted church leaders and mentors, only to find that the comfort she hopes for feels trite and unhelpful. As a devout believer, she'd already tried the typical "Christian" ways of handling her illness - prayer, reading the Bible, and advice from pastors - but none of it made a dent and sometimes it made her feel worse. Well-meaning people told her to "cast her anxieties on Jesus!" and "just try to be happy!" Each of these encounters left her feeling unheard, misunderstood, and hopeless. Eventually, she placed herself under the care of a psychiatrist who was able to help her manage her bipolar symptoms with different cocktails of medication.

Anna Gazmarian's memoir takes us through her life up to now - through periods of deep depression and inability to function, periods of happiness and love, and her education in creative writing. Her journey is not unique, and it exposes shortcomings within the American Evangelical church system that traumatize and fail people again and again.

This book was a quick read that I finished in a day. Gazmarian's story is vitally important and one that is often overlooked or written off by evangalicals. It is easy for someone with a mental illness and diagnosis - or even just a complex problem - to feel dismissed and invalidated by the church. We need more stories like this to show that people can come through such issues and keep their faith in Jesus even if it doesn't look the same as it did before. We need more stories that show us this is ok.

I liked how she shared her experiences talking to Christians about her problems and how she felt in those moments. She gave background about various Biblical principles that led her to believe certain things and how her experience of life ultimately forced her to change her approach. I skimmed a lot of the Biblical descriptions because it was mostly things I knew already. The writing was well done, although I did sense some of the manic thought processes in a few areas - but it adds to the authenticity of her story. I think many people will feel seen when they read this. I applaud Anna Gazmarian for her bravery in sharing this open and sometimes heartbreaking tale of her life.

If you are someone who has experienced a similar situation or you want to better understand what it is like for a devout Christian believer to face a serious mental diagnosis, then you need to read Anna Gazmarian's memoir.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Anna Gazamarian, and Simon & Schuster books for the opportunity to read “Devout” as an ARC.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anna’s work, not only the content of her memoir but the writing style as well. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys soul-searching journeys, mental-health focused memories, or stories about overcoming hardships in general.

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Overall, Devout wasn't for me. I was initially intrigued by the synopsis but ended up feeling like the memoir didn't live up to it. I was hoping for more of an examination of faith but ended up frustrated by the biblical stories thrown in. In my opinion, Devout should have been an article instead of a book.

Thank you NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I am not the intended audience of this book. I originally picked it up because of my general fondness of emotional memoirs, and this book promises to be exactly that. This book is fundamentally about a woman’s ever-evolving faith in herself and in God as she comes to terms with her mental health diagnosis and how it is perceived by her religious community. While there are many elements I like about this book, I could not finish it as I do not personally engage with the Christian faith and therefore found the biblical passages and stories peppered throughout to my distaste. I do hope this book finds its way into the hands of those who need it!

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I was so excited to read this ARC I started reading it as soon as I got approved. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues as well as religious trauma; I thought it would really resonate with me. Unfortunately, it was a 2 star read for me.

The book felt like something a college student would write as an essay for class; or as a dissertation. It felt too dry. I wanted more emotion. At times the voice felt very naive.

I was not expecting the numerous (and often detailed) biblical stories. I know a major plot point was regarding faith and religion, but I think the audience would already know of the stories (Moses, Job, etc).

Some parts felt disconnected or unclear. I wanted to understand why/how her doctor came up with her diagnosis. I, myself, have been misdiagnosed before. I think it's important to give more context regarding the diagnosis and process.

Thank you for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

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There was promise of Gazmarian's explorations of the church's stance on mental illness, disease, and misfortune, but something about her writing was very dry and unengaging. I had a hard time focusing and I basically felt that she never inspired me to care. Unfortunately, this one was a total miss for me.

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Devout by Anna Gazmarian provides an in-depth look at the church’s stance on illness, disease, misfortune, and mental illness.

Being ex-evangelical myself, I often struggled with the ways in which the author processed through her religious trauma while still clinging to the purity culture and religious ideals of her youth.

Despite the Bible verses and rather large chunks of the narrative in which the author tells a story from the Bible (that I often felt could have been abbreviated), the writing felt dry. It did not inspire a great sense of feeling or emotion from me. Despite being a subject matter that should resonate.

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Unlike other memoirs of deconstructing or leaving one's faith, "Devout" offers a compromise. In clear, well-written prose, Gazmarian shares her version of coming to terms with evangelical faith through finding ways to accept what she can from it. Her vulnerability shines through, which makes her story that much more compelling. Highly recommended for readers who are questioning and/or working to unlearn parts of their childhood faith. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

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My review for this work will be coming out sometime in early March in Today's American Catholic. I thought the work was well-paced, succinct, and extremely readable.

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For Gazmarian, her evangelical Christianity was the center of her upbringing. As a child (and even in to her adult years) however, she struggled with doubt. Not a doubt in faith itself but a doubt that her faith wasn’t everything that it should be. As a freshman in college, determined to be a good Christian, she got herself re-baptized hoping to erase any doubts that lingered. When she then became forgetful, depressed, and suicidal, more doubts began to pop up and she struggled with how to cope within the scope of her faith—where suicidal ideation was viewed as a one way ticket to hell and the work of the devil. With no other options, she visits a doctor who gives her a shiny new diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Gazmarian takes readers along for the ride as she navigates her new diagnosis and what it means in terms of her faith—ultimately unlearning many things that were ingrained in to her. She writes with humble honesty using sharp, clear prose.

This book is a testament of courage and resiliency. I believe that a good book is a book that can make you feel something and is an added bonus if it challenges your beliefs or makes you look at something in a different light. This memoir did both of those things for me and I loved it.

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Gazmarian joins the host of ex-fundamentalist Christian memoirs with her book Devout, but with the twist that she manages to keep her faith and find healing by staying in Christianity. The strongest parts of this were her discussions of her writing growth journey in tandem with her mental health discoveries and setbacks. Loved seeing a community rally around a struggling member rather than isolating them further.

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An incredibly detailed look at faith and bi-polar disorder and how they intersect in the author’s life. She grew up in an evangelical community where often mental health issues were seen as an absence of faith, and then she is diagnosed as bipolar. She takes us through ups and downs, medication changes, and challenges. At the end she leaves a list of books (resources) and I loved that touch. Honest and raw, if these topics interest you, you will enjoy it. Obviously if both religion and mental health issues aren’t up your alley then you might want to skip it.

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I have been loving memoirs regarding religious trauma lately, and this book was no doubt one I loved as well. However, it differs from the majority of what I have read in one huge way: it does not completely denounce former faith and instead chooses to reconcile with it healthily. A very captivating and stunning portrait of the life of one woman struggling with her mental health and religious identity's intersection.

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