It is a true treat to get a preview of something the world will love. That was the case with Emily Wierenga’s new book Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look that releases today. Emily and I have crossed paths in real life and writing life (you can find her as a regular contributor over at the MOPS blog, Hello, Darling). And because of our intertwined paths I got a chance to read this book’s manuscript months ago. You will see my official endorsement at the end of this post, but know as you read this excerpt that Atlas Girl is a raw and honest journey that doesn’t shy away from pain and always circles around grace. Enjoy some of Atlas Girl here.
Atlas Girl, an excerpt
By Emily T. Wierenga
For some reason I always said a prayer for her when it was dark. Mum.
Not really during the day, but always when it was night and maybe because she was like a candle. We didn’t talk a lot and we were opposite in temperament and so, we yelled a lot, and yet I missed the way she smelled of lavender and would hold me when a boy dumped me or when Dad wouldn’t listen to me.
The man with the alcoholic breath was whimpering in his sleep and I felt sorry for him and annoyed and I had a crick in my neck. No one seemed to notice this blond girl with the man asleep on her shoulder, but that was the way I wanted it. No one seeing me, all hunched over with my Margaret Atwood novel and my Walkman.
I was listening to Journey. “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world… she took a midnight train going anywhere…”
Closed my eyes against the jagged yellow of the road and buried my nose against my cardigan. It smelled of Fuzzy Peach perfume from the Body Shop. Of the mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to the Olympic Games; of the 21-year-old boy who had given me my sweet sixteen kiss.
It smelled like home and my room covered in Michael W. Smith and DC Talk posters and the floral quilt with Cuddles, my bear. And I didn’t remember Dad ever entering that room. Mum sometimes slid books under the door, books on sex and why not to have it before marriage and sometimes my sisters would come in and watch me do my makeup.
Ever since the anorexia—me starving myself from the ages of nine to 13 and ending up in a hospital where my hair fell out and my nails curled under—they’d been a bit scared of me and I didn’t blame them. Mum didn’t let them visit me very often because I played secular music from the radio, stuff like Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, stuff that made the insides of my legs ache a little.
I twisted the silver purity ring on my ring finger and it wasn’t coming off, not until my wedding day and it was the one thing my parents and I agreed on.
But I would have pulled the Kleenex from my bra, and the bra from my body, for Seth Jones.
For the scratchy way he’d said my name and the way his brown hair hung over his eyes, but I hadn’t. And Mum had knocked on my bedroom door that day, roses in her arms and she’d sat on my bed and held me, the day Seth had dumped me in the courtyard of the school. The day he’d said I was too nice. Which really just meant I wouldn’t get undressed for him.
But then Mum had given me a bouquet of roses and my fingers had bled from the thorns. And I’d known I wasn’t too nice, just too afraid of sin, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what kind of fear, so long as it steers you right.
I didn’t know why I was waiting except that sex was a big deal, even bigger than drinking, and it was only allowed after marriage.
Not that marriage meant much with my dad sleeping on the couch after staying up late on the computer and Mum getting jealous over the ladies Dad talked to after church in his long minister’s robe and his face full of laughter wrinkles, the kind of wrinkles we never saw at home.
“Edmonton,” the driver’s weary voice crackled over the speaker and the man on my shoulder was sitting up now, rubbing his eyes and yawning. As though he did that kind of thing all the time, as though we were lovers or friends, and I shrugged.
The bus was stopping and the Ojibway man inching out of his seat.
And I stood up, and my heart fell out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe.
For all of my 18 years of not being able to connect with him, I missed him.
This is an excerpt from my new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, releasing July 1 through Baker Books. I am excited to give away a copy of ATLAS GIRL today. Just leave a comment below to win.
“Atlas Girl is about the layers of life that matter: generations and care-taking and love and grief. It is here, tucked in these layers of Emily’s stories and heartbreak, that Jesus is found. We see that to be a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend is to be a citizen of this world. And though our feet are planted here on earth, no matter our location or our circumstances, the kingdom of heaven is palpable and near. Travel with Atlas Girl as she unfolds the layers of her journey around the globe to the center of her heart.”
Alexandra Kuykendall, leader and mom content editor, MOPS International; author of The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir
From the back cover:
“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.
“Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.”
You can find Emily at emilywierenga.com and you can find Atlas Girl on Amazon.