Called Out of Darkness, Anne Rice’s spiritual memoir, took me longer than it should have. It’s only 245 pages, and it shouldn’t be hard reading.

And yet, I struggled.

During Lent last year, I picked up Mother Teresa’s book Come Be My Light and had a similar taking-longer-than-I-expected reading experience. It was worth the effort, though, and I was thinking of that when I put Called Out of Darkness down the first time.

“I’ll give it a week,” I thought. “It HAS to pick up pace.”

I was on chapter 6 (page 114) before I felt the flow of it, and knew I could finish it. I was on chapter 8 (page 172) before I started carrying it around the house with me.

This book is a journey. Rice describes, in great detail, what it was like to grow up in pre-Vatican II New Orleans, the daughter of very devout parents. She paints a picture that I felt I could see, in color, of life in that era. Then, just at about the time I was ready to throw the book away (library book or not, I had had ENOUGH already), she changes gear and leaves the Church.

Ah! Now we’re at the part I care about!

She describes her experience as atheist-warming-to-Christianity in a way that made me nod and remember, all too well, the truths she describes:

In fact, being an atheist required discipline very like that of being Catholic. One could never yield to the idea of a supernatural authority, no matter how often one might be tempted. To think that a personal God had made the world was to yield to a demonic and superstitious and destructive belief.

She continues, a few chapters later, with a passage that I could lift and write as part of the story of my journey from Christianity to atheism back to Christianity:

It seems to me that many people think a Christian conversion is exactly that – a falling into simplicity; a falling from intellect into an emotional refuge; an attempt to feel good. There are even writers today who see Christian conversion as a form of empowerment, and books are written that promise born-again Christians not only complete peace of mind, but even monetary gain. My return involved complete trust in God, an admission of faith in Him, a faith made evident by love. But it took an iron will to go back to Him. I anticipated grave difficulties. I feared grave obligations. And I was in no way able to turn against the secular humanist friends and teacher and culture which I had for so many years admired.

All in all, I’d rate this book four stars. It’s worth your time to plug through, though you may experience none of the difficulty I did with her conversational style or seemingly endless descriptions of her growing up. The insight is worth the journey.

Postscript: I’m going to try the first of her Christ the Lord books soon – I read Interview with a Vampire years ago and enjoyed it (though I never did read any of the other books in that series). I’m sure, having seen a slice of how it was written and how she was inspired to write about Jesus’ life, I’ll be hooked. Or not. We’ll see.