Breaking the Chains by Shari Howerton


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If you’re frustrated over the state of your church and maybe even mad at the leadership, read this book. It’ll either give you the perspective you need to remember that churches are imperfect because they’re made of imperfect people, or it will confirm that your church needs help.

I read Breaking the Chains after the author, Shari Howerton, approached me to ask if I’d review her self-published memoir of spiritual abuse and growing up as part of a Christian cult.

I’ll be honest, my expectations for self-published books are always low. I blame it on my college education and the fact that self publishing wasn’t really considered respectable when I went to school for writing. And sometimes it still isn’t in many circles. But after having worked with several self-published authors who needed an editor and reflecting on just how hard it is to get your work read, I determined that I want to be an advocate for writers who don’t go the traditional route for whatever reason. Unless that reason is that they’re bad writers. (That’s another post entirely.)

After skimming a few pages of the book, I agreed to review it. The writing wasn’t terrible like I was expecting. And the story seemed to have some cohesion. And the subject was fascinating.

It’s hard to know what to mention in a review like this because I know I tend to be pretty picky about the way things are written. Shari’s writing isn’t bad at all. Toward the beginning I found myself distracted by similar sentence structures and the repetition of the words “I” and “however” at the beginning of most sentences, but my preoccupation soon gave way to interest in the story.

Breaking the Chains doesn’t read like a typical memoir. Shari spends more time getting the facts straight than she does on artful prose, but her testimony is gripping. She recounts what it was like to grow up in a Protestant cult that emphasized perfection and keeping up appearances, and she used many stories to talk about how it affected her as an adult. Her account of what it was like to leave revealed a long, drawn out, and painful process rather than a quick escape.

Shari’s book is full of hope. In the midst of legalism and her confusion about grace, she meets Jesus for real. And He changes everything.

If you’re looking for a powerful testimony about freedom from religiosity or you just want to be challenged in your own ministry (believe me, she raises lots of convicting questions), consider giving Breaking the Chains a chance.

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. These opinions are my own and were not influenced by the author.

One thought on “Breaking the Chains by Shari Howerton

  1. Shari Howerton

    Thank you for reviewing my book, Sarah. The first time I read your review, I confess I could only focus on the words “wasn’t terrible.” Oh, my, I was disappointed. Then I focused on my overuse of the word however and the distraction of repetitive sentence structures. But I have learned something about myself in the last few years. Perhaps due to the perfectionism I still struggle with, I only connect with the criticism on any “first read” of words about me. I now make a practice of setting the words aside (whether an email or a book review) and come back to read it freshly again in a few days. That way, I get the initial emotional response out of the way and can read it the way someone else might read it; someone who isn’t taking a word of it personally.

    I came back to your review this morning and it read differently. Yes, I still wish my writing had not contained any distractions (and if you read my second book, I’m eager to hear if my writing improved from your perspective). But you are so right in your assessment that I was far more focused on getting my facts straight than artful prose. I was able to focus on different words in your review this morning — words like hope and gripping. I realized that offering hope and raising convicting questions were my real goal. Beautiful writing will always be an aspiration, but helping others is what I consider my vocation. I just attempt to do it through my writing.

    Thank you again for taking the time to read and review my work. I know your time is valuable and you have many requests. I sincerely appreciate your review and just wanted to say thanks!

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