A darkly, funny and moving journey about one woman’s search for salvation
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.
"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
"Everything about Sin Bravely is unexpected. It's a deeply personal examination of what can happen when you take religion to the extreme, but it's also hilarious. Maggie Rowe tells her own story of checking into an evangelical psychiatric facility after years of worrying she isn't devout enough. Her fear of eternal damnation is real and at times uncomfortable to read about. But what I found so refreshing about this book was the way Rowe balanced serious religious reflection and humor without an ounce of snark or cynicism."
- NPR's Best Books of 2017, Natalie Friedman Winston, editor, Morning Edition (See the review)
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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
Anxiety, guilt, and a debilitating fear of going to hell don’t feel like they’d make for a great vacation read, but Sin Bravely, Maggie Rowe’s hilarious—and ultimately heartwarming—story of her time spent in an Evangelical Christian rehab, is. The former Arrested Development writer entered said rehab to try and work through her unrelenting fear of the fiery pits of Hades. Rowe’s anxiety is mostly stoked (ha!) by her intelligence, and the existential questions are relatable to anyone whose logic has thrown a wrench into blind faith. The scene where Rowe enters an amateur stripping contest in order to sin bravely (a particularly funny version of exposure therapy) is laugh-out-loud funny.