Surprised By Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber

by Brooke West

I find it extremely difficult to review memoirs because with a few keystrokes you either appear to approve or disapprove of someone’s life experiences. How pretentious is that? However, given the task at hand, I’ll do my best and hope I appropriately convey how much this book meant to me.

I was surprised by this book. If we’re being totally honest, I was prepared to be left floundering in lofty language, trying desperately to keep up with theological discussions that were over my head. However, that wasn’t the case at all.

This is the memoir of Carolyn Weber and chronicles her first year at Oxford (as the title might have suggested). At just around 450 pages, it was a quick read because I got so wrapped up in her story and so invested in her conversion.

Arriving at Oxford with a huge trunk of shoes (which immediately endeared her to me) seemed a great metaphor for the other baggage she carried with her into this foreign country and experience. Ms. Weber’s descriptions of the pomp and circumstance that goes hand in hand with the honor of being a student at such a university, made me feel like I was there. She was plunged into the rhythm of Oxford with a band of friends of widely varied backgrounds; the conversations and discussions sparking her own spiritual search. She meets a man who challenges her and shakes the foundations on which she has built her views and principles. As a strong and independent woman who has worked hard for everything she has ever received, she struggles for large part of the book trying to accept the free gift of grace that this man has her contemplating. Ms. Weber takes you through the highs and lows of her thorough investigation of Christianity that encompasses most of her first year at Oxford. A story of conviction, hope and the amazing gift of grace from our gracious Father, in a place far away from the comforts of home and family, I believe, only strengthened and underlined her need for a Heavenly Father. All of this intermingled with the side story of father issues, disapproval of other family members and friends, a love story and influences of professors she admires and respects makes this book a genuine treasure to read.

By the end I was so devoted to her conversion and spiritual growth, I felt like she was my own sister. This book made me laugh, cry, snort and cheer. I cannot recommend it enough!

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