A darkly, funny and moving journey about one woman’s search for salvation

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As a young girl, Maggie Rowe took the idea of salvation very seriously. Growing up in a moderately religious household, her fear of eternal damnation turned into a childhood terror that drove her to become an outrageously dedicated born-again Christian — regularly slinging Bible verses in cutthroat scripture memorization competitions and assaulting strangers at shopping malls with the “good news” that they were going to hell.

Finally, at nineteen, crippled by her fear, she checked herself in to an Evangelical psychiatric facility—or as the less polite might say, a born-again nuthouse. And that is where her journey really began. Surrounded by a ragtag cast of characters, including a former biker meth-head struggling with anger management issues, a set of identical twins tormented by erotic fantasies, a World War II veteran and artist of denial who insists that he’s only “locked up for a tune-up,” and a warm and upbeat chronic depressive who becomes the author’s closest ally, Maggie launches a campaign to, in the words of Martin Luther, “Sin bravely in order to know the forgiveness of God.”

Told in a voice both funny and heartfelt, Sin Bravely is a tour de force, voice-driven debut that examines how one woman finally found the middle ground between Heaven and Hell.

Featured Reviews

Former Arrested Development writer Maggie Rowe spent her Christian childhood agonizing over whether she was devout enough to to heaven. Brimming with characters wacky and sincere, this memoir centers on her time in an Evangelical psychiatric facility.

Entertainment Weekly, Must List

 

“Rowe deftly juxtaposes dark humor with raw emotion without ever yanking the reader out of the story.” 

The Guardian (Read the full review)

"A highly intriguing, personal and bravely written memoir about the author confronting her childhood terrors of eternal damnation and faith."

- Summer's Nine Hottest Reads for the Suitcase, Huffington Post

 

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Praise

This book is so honest, so chock full of struggle and philosophical profundity —and ultimately so heartbreakingly funny— that one is only left to conclude that if Heaven is a place that won’t let in the likes of Maggie Rowe, then why the hell would anyone even want to go there?
— Mitch Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development
“A powerful debut memoir that hits the unusual sweet spot of rigorous theology, candid sexuality, and laugh-out-loud humor. Who knew theological inquiry and obsessive questioning of one’s eternal fate could be so damn funny?
— Mishna Wolff, author of I’m Down: A Memoir
A sharply written, genuinely funny book about the dangers of literalism and fear of the afterlife. A must read for anyone on this side of eternity.
— Bill Maher
Maggie Rowe’s writing is a rare thing: brilliant, intelligent, hilarious, thoughtful, and, most importantly, utterly believable. Sin Bravely is a startling reminder of how “faith” and “belief” are often synonymous with pure terror of a fictional—and seemingly very mean—Guy, and of what He’ll do if you doubt Him for even a second. Her fear of Hell is a hell in itself, lived though the mind of a fiercely intelligent woman. Sin Bravely deserves to sell more copies and scare more people than the Bible; this is what I call a ‘good book.
— Peter Baynham, co-screenwriter, Borat and Arthur Christmas
A gripping exploration of the necessity of disobedience on the road to authenticity. A beautifully written, deeply funny memoir.
— Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent
Hilarious and heartbreaking. Hints of The Bell Jar in that Maggie Rowe makes a painful story feel vibrant and funny and alive. Immensely readable.
— Ilyse Mimoun, author of Choose Your Own Love Story
Maggie Rowe suffered for our sins so we don’t have to. There are many laugh out loud moments in Maggie’s deeply moving account of her spiritual wrestling match with a god she both feared and worshiped. A book with an original voice that should definitely be on your reading list.
— Annabelle Gurwitch, author of I See You Made An Effort
By turns harrowing and hilarious Maggie Rowe takes us with her on a journey to the heart of faith and despair, love and madness.
— Eric Kaplan, author of Does Santa Exist?

Reviews

Sin Bravely is "an unflinching examination of the dangers of literalism in the religion department. And while you might be distracted by the sound of your own laughter, it's a dead-serious message that won't soon be shaken off."

Chicago Tribune (Read the full review)

 

"You will laugh, nod, and marvel at Rowe's story-telling ability."

10 Books to Add to Your February 2017 Reading List, Dailybreak (Read the full review)

 

"Readers of Rowe's account can reexperience their own spiritual crises and reappreciate the good news of divine grace when they hear it pronounced."

 - The Christian Century (Read the full review)

 

"Rowe is a winning narrator, and you can’t help but root for her. ... 'Sin Bravely' inadvertently shows the value of a good spiritual director"

- America magazine, the bi weekly Catholic review of arts & culture (Read the full review)

 

Sin Bravely is "a fascinating book that explores the trouble that people who are naturally anxious can get into when they subscribe to a literalistic view of religion."

- Bill's Faith Matters Blog (Read the full review)

 

"Devotees of Rowe’s comedy and those with a strong interest in born-again Christianity will enjoy learning about her strife and road to redemption. ... An enthusiastic chronicle of how one woman’s religious passion almost swallowed her whole."

- Kirkus Reviews (Read the full review)

 

Starred as a Weekly Pick - "Rowe puts readers in the front car on her spiritual roller-coaster. ... Rowe’s fantastic book is a born-again version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest complete with a Nurse Ratched analogue (the demanding, no-nonsense Bethanie). Not for the faint of heart, this is a cutting examination of Rowe’s spiritual evolution that plunges into the big questions with the fearlessness found in the most brilliant of comics."

- Publishers Weekly Review (Read the full review)

 

Readers who have wrestled with self-doubt over the strength of their convictions will find a funny, frank companion in this frantically compelling memoir. The author grows up Christian, but instead of feeling secure in her eternal salvation is besieged by the anxiety of never knowing if she is really sincere enough. Readers will cringe in recognition of their own awkwardly sincere teenage selves as she tries to secure her eternal destiny by proving her commitment to God. The anxiety reaches a crescendo in college, and she heads to a Christian mental-health facility to figure things out. Once there, she meets a cast of characters, some of whom are helpful (an honest doctor, a woman struggling with her own past) and some not so much (an inept therapist, an overly optimistic man prone to quoting Bible verses). Rowe’s book does not provide easy answers, but her capacity to eventually sin bravely signals a new beginning. This engaging and adventurous book is an excellent companion for fellow seekers.

- Christine Engel, Book List