Surprised by Oxford is Carolyn Weber's tale of finding herself and Jesus - not necessarily in that order - as a provincial Canadian girl pursuing a graduate degree at Oxford. Raised in a well-off family thrust into poverty as a result of her father's mental illness, Weber describes how she came to terms with her own troubled emotional background while struggling to find her place in what turned out to be a very big world.
At the beginning of her memoir, Weber relates a conversation she had with a professor in which he explained to her the importance of learning "to discern the real thing from the" BS, "and then to choose the" non-BS. It is an excellent anecdote. Unfortunately, the memoir seems to itself contain a substantial amount of BS. Perhaps Weber was concerned that the reality was insufficiently interesting, or was reluctant to share personal details (especially of other peoples' lives), or fictionalized around gaps in decade-old memories, or had an overactive editor, or is simply a poor writer. Whatever the cause, throughout Surprised by Oxford, characters and events seem to obey the laws of drama rather than the ways of life. While there is no reason to doubt the broad outlines of Weber's story, the air of unreality is a fatal flaw in a book about the search for the Real.
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