Glennon Doyle Melton
Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed
Scrobner / Simon & Schuster
US Trade Hardcover First Edition
Publication Date: 04-02-2013
270 Pages; $25.00
Date Reviewed: 05-03-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013
The world knows all about you; and yet, nothing about you. The last time you were greeted with the question, "How are you?" the chances are that you answered with some soporific ranging between "OK..." and "Great!" — something that had little or nothing with how you actually felt at the moment. The lurching machine of everyday social interaction was barreling towards you, and smart person that you were, you greased those wheels and let them slip past, avoiding both reality and actual conversation. Generally, that's a good idea.
But, speaking with another mom in a playground somewhere in Suburban America, Glennon Doyle Melton found that not to be the case. She actually answered that question, and in her answer found both herself and her calling. If only it was that easy for her, or for anyone else. It's an ongoing process, documented regularly at her blog, Momastery.com, and in book form, with 'Carry On Warrior: Thought on Life Unarmed.'
The second half of that title is just as important as the first, because "life unarmed," that is, without the armor we usually keep in place to protect our fragile egos, is what Melton's book and blog are about. The idea is that the information age is really just an opportunity to enter the too much information age. Melton tells you more than you think you might want to hear about her many addictions and the seemingly infinite failures that have, counter-intuitively, led her to success. She approaches life unarmed so long as what she reveals about herself hurts no one else. It's not an easy task, but her essays here, slightly revised from the site, we are told, are entertaining, enlightening and inspiring, though how all that enlightenment and inspiration works out will certainly vary from reader to reader. By and large, the book can get by on entertainment value alone.
Unless you're a die-hard fan of the site, this is not necessarily the sort of book you are going to read cover-to-cover, but you may end up doing so anyway. 'Carry On, Warrior' may consist of individual essays about the non-joys of parenthood, laundry, trying to deal with other parents, marriage, addiction and all the other stuff of life, but there's more here than the isolated bits.
First and foremost, Melton's book is chock-a-block with great characters, and she's number one. This could be kind of odious, but Melton is so raw and so fresh that she pulls it off without seeming self-involved, even though the book is all about her self-involvement. If that seems like a paradox, it's the first of many. But Melton's other characters; her family, friends and readers, are all just as charming as she is. There's a level of everyday reality to the pieces here that makes everyone seem like someone you just saw at the grocery store.
Melton pulls this off with the help of smart, funny, plain prose. This is confession as art form, the too-much part of the too-much-information age that blogs have enabled. Melton's humor and most of her acerbic observations are at her own expense, and even so, they're never mean. They feel just real enough to get in under our radar. She even manages to write about her religion and spirituality without sounding insipid, condescending or proselytizing. As a reader who is sensitive to this, I was pleasantly surprised.
As individual pieces, the essays vary in quality just how compelling each one is. Some are must-reads ("Don't Carpe Diem") while others are more on the merely amusing side of the equation. That said, put together in a book, they form an arc of sorts, intended or not. As readers of the collection, sooner or later you're rooting for Melton to succeed, which in fact comes to pass. And when she does, you want something more, which she delivers. There's a reason to read a book like this even if you're disinclined to read a website. And if you do read the read the website, then reading these edited essays in the book will have a rather different effect on you. It may not make you tell the truth to everyone and thus set ye free, but the book does give you some perspective.
'Carry On Warrior' is probably a book that would more appeal to more readers than those most likely to pick it up in the bookstore. Glennon Doyle Melton is a fine writer with a gift for revealing more about herself to her readers than they might want to know in a manner that makes them glad they found out anyway. Confession may or may not be good for the soul, but it can be good for the reader.