Surprised by Oxford is the memoir of Carolyn Weber, a young woman who leaves her home of Canada to study literature in the ancient halls of Oxford. In the book, Carolyn shares her journey to faith in Jesus, starting from arriving at Oxford as one who knew very little about Christianity, through her struggles as she seeks answers and wrestles with the deep issues of faith, and up to her choice to follow Jesus and the finishing of her schooling at Oxford.
I can’t adequately describe the pleasure it was to read Surprised by Oxford. As a literature student myself, it was such a joy to read Carolyn’s story, both because of its smooth and engrossing prose and its perspective of God. It reminded me much of C.S. Lewis’ own memoir, Surprised by Joy. Since Oxford was the home of that great Christian writer, Carolyn’s story (and I’m nearly certain the title of it) references him often, and I would gladly put the two books next to each other on my shelf. At nearly five hundred pages the book could have easily grown taxing and boring, but Carolyn writes so well that the length actually helped me, as one character encouraged her, to “Pause. Rest. Reflect.”
Even a few months after finishing the book, certain scenes stand out in my mind, ones written so tenderly they nearly feel like fiction; ones deeply honest, such as Carolyn’s struggle with men and feminism and a friend’s perfect response to it; ones brilliant in their wisdom and understanding of God and our relationship with Him. Carolyn is honest with her struggles and pains, and walking with her as she wrestled her way to the Lord was encouraging to my own heart and relationship with Him.
Near the end of the story, Carolyn goes for a walk with a dear friend, who says, “If you look back on your life, you’ll see His hand in it, and over you….” Surprised by Oxford is Carolyn’s looking back, and I’m very happy and honored to have shared it with her.
(I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)