RUINED is a spiritual memoir by Ruth Everhart.
Named 2017 Book of the Year by Christianity Today Women!
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Publishers Weekly — a starred review for this spiritual memoir!
In her second memoir, Presbyterian pastor Everhart (Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land) reflects on being sexually assaulted when she was a college student, the assault’s emotional aftermath, and its theological implications. Raised in an insulated Dutch community and the Christian Reformed Church, Everhart’s worldview was forever changed when two men broke into her apartment and raped her. She asks where God was during the brutality, where she was being punished for her sexual experiences, and how a God who wills everything could will something so terrible to happen. In addition to her theological analysis, Everhart is at her best when dismantling the sexism that surrounds rape. She recounts how she sucked in her stomach when asked to strip because, “that’s how thoroughly [she] had internalized the fact that a woman should make herself attractive to the eyes of a man.” She recalls her anger when the doctor who performed her rape kit referred to her rapist as a “clown.” She looks at why many people treat rape differently from other injuries and reminds readers that rape cannot make women less whole. Everhart also includes examples of how churches can provide support to rape survivors. This is a touching and empowering story of healing.
Kirkus — a starred review!
Everhart (Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, 2012) has been a Presbyterian pastor for more than 25 years. Being raped as a young woman sparked a bitter faith crisis and a long journey toward healing and the ministry. One night in November 1978, two masked African-American gunmen broke into the home she and five other female Calvin College seniors shared in a rough area of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was ostensibly a robbery, but they also raped all but one hostage. Mini-explanatory flashbacks give background about Everhart’s upbringing in the conservative Dutch Reformed Church and her unfamiliarity with blacks; rather than breaking up the narrative flow, these sections maintain tension throughout the incident. Admirably, the book faces ironies and grim realities head-on: when one gunman ordered her to strip, Everhart sucked in her stomach; she was menstruating heavily, so hospital staff administering a rape kit had to remove two tampons. She’d been raised to accept the Calvinist doctrine of God’s sovereignty, meaning nothing is random: Was rape her punishment for having consensual sex during her summer job at Yellowstone? “I had bought into an idea of sexual sin that was unequal,” she remarks, with heavier punishment falling on women. This notion of being “ruined,” which intensified after her affair with a married man, haunted the author for years, even after the crime’s ringleader was sentenced to life in prison. Only gradually, through attending multiracial and women-led churches of other denominations, did she overcome her fear of African-American men and reclaim the possibility of biblical feminism. Incorporating trial documents (including transcripts of the prosecutor’s closing argument and a defendant’s and judge’s court statements) and an excerpted seminary essay, the perfectly balanced volume has equal relevance for readers of true crime and progressive theology. This consistently riveting book ends with Everhart’s tender letter to her daughters, reassuring them that women’s worth is not dictated by sexual experiences. “Love and suffering are tied together” through Christ’s incarnation, she insists, yet “we are all more than what happens to us.” Forthright, compassionate, and expertly crafted, everything readers should want from a memoir.
“Far more than just a moving narrative by a remarkable person (although it is that), it is a story of lived theology: everything that has to do with God and the Gospel written in the language of everyday suffering, pain and blessing and love. Rape and shame, friendship and family find their place on these pages providing witness to a mature lived faith.”
~ Eugene Peterson, author of many books, including The Message
“Ruined is one of those memoirs that sticks to your heart, helps you understand the power of a story, and gives you a framework to understand God when terrible things happen. Honest and beautifully written, Ruth’s story will help readers discover the love of God in unexpected ways.”
~ Mary DeMuth, author of WE TOO: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis, and other books
“Mostly I wish this book never needed to be written. But it did, it was, and it’s powerful. With heart-wrenching honesty and a refusal to leave the chaos, Ruth Everhart shows us the raw courage necessary to emerge both wounded and healed. Alternating between fury, hurt, fear, and rage, we journey with her to find God and her way back to life.”
~ Nancy Ortberg, author of Seeing in the Dark and other books
“I first read this powerful and extremely well-written book over a year ago and thought then that it was both timely and timeless. Now, with the rise of the #MeToo movement in our country, Ruth’s candid memoir is even more timely and important as a vehicle for engaging in a conversation about the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape in our culture and the theological questions it raises for individuals and for faith communities.”