Stepping Heavenward

Stepping Heavenward is a semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman’s spiritual growth from her teens through her twenties.  Lots of people really love this book, including Elisabeth Elliot, who wrote that she suggested this book to men to better understand their wives.

This perplexes me, because I did not love this book, nor even particularly like it.  I certainly would never recommend it to a man, given that men tend to have an even lower threshold for treacly 1800s stuff than I do.

The book is not completely awful, and there were points where I thought “Oh yes, this is similar to my experience” but those points were fewer than I expected.  I felt like the book was a lot of repetition, hand wringing, people getting sick, characters introduced and then dying, etc.

Huge caveat: I read this book mostly in snatches at night while nursing a baby and I’m woefully sleep deprived.  The 1800s were certainly fraught with sudden sicknesses and death. Our spiritual struggles are often repetitious, and goodness knows I am personally prone to hand wringing.  Spiritual growth is a personal thing and differs from person to person, so perhaps (and apparently) this book would appeal more to some people than to others.  I feel bad about reviewing it negatively because it’s the sort of book I ought to like.

Have you read  Stepping Heavenward?  If so, what did you like about it?


9 thoughts on “Stepping Heavenward

  1. Don’t you hate it when you don’t love a book you feel you’re supposed to like. I read this (or attempted to and didn’t finish) when I was not sleep-deprived and felt the same feelings you express. I felt bad for not liking it as much as the women who resoundingly suggested it and, given its spiritual nature, felt like I should have been more keen on it. It left me cold, too. You’re not alone.

  2. I tend to think this book is geared toward a young woman, who I do think would like it more than us grown ups. I read this following the reading of the book about her life, More Love to Thee, the Life and Letters of Elisabeth Prentiss, and so it was less interesting since I knew her life already. I think if I had read this as a teen, looking for how a young woman would be seeking to honor God in her life, it would have meant a great deal. I anticipate encouraging my daughter to read this when she is older.

  3. I also feel kind of “meh” about it. Perhaps I would get something different out of it if I re-read it, but it seemed rather heavy on the suffering end of things, as if God’s sole method of interacting with His children is suffering and chastening and humbling – dreary, painful things. I don’t remember feeling much joy, anticipation, communion or worship while reading it, just despair.

    Not that there isn’t suffering in life – I ought to know! – but I think that when we primarily/solely present God in that way, it is not a well-rounded picture and does not accurately portray His whole heart. And when we misunderstand His heart, it’s so much harder to love and trust Him. At least, that is my experience….

  4. I read this book last year, within months of my 17-year old daughter’s death. It was her own book, and I read it in the wake of suffering the loss of her. It was a precious book. I loved seeing the growth of the young lady, from young and inexperienced to more selfless and deep. She grew in understanding of her husband and how best to be his helpmeet, and how also to communicate with him better. The suffering didn’t strike me as being overdone – perhaps because I’d just had my own share of it, and also because, as you said, suffering from poor health and early death was a very real part of people’s lives in that era.

  5. I picked up this book originally in my early twenties because of Elizabeth Elliot’s recommendation of it. It really struck a cord with me at the time because it brought home the point that I really can decide who I become. My attitudes have lasting consequences. I wasn’t experiencing the drama of the main character’s life to any degree, but I could hear myself in her whining and refusal to own up to what was placed before her. I read it years later as a mom of teens and was particularly inspired by the main character’s mother. She didn’t scream or rant at her daughter’s selfishness, but dealt with her with a firm, quiet love. This example, eventually led her daughter to be able to endure much and their relationship eventually blossomed.
    Monica recently posted..Little Blessings

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